Court Circular

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The Independent Online

D'oh! Bart wants to go homer...

If Justine Henin fulfils her destiny to win the women's singles title this afternoon, it will probably be thanks to her delectable backhand. Bart Fiermans, however, a sports writer with the Belgian newspaper, De Morgen, thinks her success may also be entwined with his own uncanny knack of arriving at Grand Slams with the intention of going home early and then watching as his nation reaches heights previously unscaled in the game.

"This is my fifth Grand Slam," Fiermans said yesterday. "The first was Roland Garros in 1997. I booked a hotel for just a couple of days and then Filip Dewulf reached the semi-final, the first Belgian ever to do so. At Roland Garros in 1998, I again booked a hotel for a couple of days and he reached the quarters. At Wimbledon in 1999 I booked for a week and then Kim Clijsters, who was 16, ended up playing on the second Monday. This year I went to Roland Garros, book a week in the hotel and my return ticket, and what happened? Clijsters makes the final."

Didn't it occur to him, then, that Wimbledon this year might throw up something special? "I was pretty sure there'd be a reason to stay past the first weekend," Fiermans said. "But I only booked in for one week to make sure."

From bad calls to wake-up calls

Before a single ball had been hit at this year's Championships, it was certain that there would be home involvement in both this weekend's singles finals. The youngsters who will toss the coins to decide who serves first in women's and men's events respectively are Kyle Weaver, aged 15, from London, and Michael Brown, 16, from Bristol, who have both shown courage and determination to cope with disabilities and handicaps and have been rewarded with a big day out.

While we're sure the young pair will do a splendid job this afternoon, the same has not always been true of Britons involved in officiating at matches. The infamous case of Mrs Dorothy Cavis-Brown, who was a line judge on the opening day of the 1964 Championships, springs to mind. She fell asleep in her chair on Court Three during the first-round match between Abe Segal of South Africa and Clark Graebner of the United States. So solidly was she napping that Segal eventually had to go over and tap her on the shoulder to rouse her from her slumber.

The cause of her drowsiness was not too much work (it was the first day, after all), nor too much sun, nor boredom. In the morning she had attended the traditional opening-day umpires' cocktail party. The event has never taken place since.

Happy shopper

One of the thousands of fans who spent good time and money in the official Wimbledon shop buying souvenirs yesterday was...

Name: John Gittins.

Age: 33.

Occupation: Maintenance electrician from Stoke.

What have you bought? A Wimbledon towel for £22. That's all we could afford.

Was your purchase a bargain? No. We come every year and get a memento. We would've liked to buy a present for a friend but we didn't have enough money.

Would you pay extra to have Cliff Richard's autograph on your towel? No.

Whose autograph would you pay extra for? Tim Henman.

If Tim is a Tiger, what is Greg Rusedski? A Cheshire cat.

Who will win the women's title this year? Williams.

Have you ever slept on a pavement to attend a prestigious British sporting event? No. But I've been drunk on a pavement at one. Port Vale versus Stockport County at Wembley.

How many strawberries can you fit in your mouth at once? Half a dozen.

Why aren't you at work? Day off. I'm not shirking.

Bottle of Hastings

A punter will win £30,000 from William Hill if Patrick Rafter wins the title, after staking £10,000 on the Australian at odds of 3-1. The lucky – or unlucky – man is a chip shop owner from Hastings, which just goes to show how much money is in fast food nowadays. Expect to see the headlines "Bookies take a battering" and "Plaice your bets here" if Rafter wins.

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