Wimbledon hires a hawk to keep pigeons away - Tennis - Sport - The Independent

Wimbledon hires a hawk to keep pigeons away

Wimbledon has employed a hawk named Hamish to keep the pests - primarily pigeons - away from the All England Club.

Wimbledon has employed a hawk named Hamish to keep the pests - primarily pigeons - away from the All England Club.

The hawk even has a coveted tournament pass complete with a passport-style photograph.

Hamish is let off his leash to scare flocks of pigeons that gather at the All England Club with particular emphasis on Centre Court and Court 1.

"He hasn't killed one pigeon yet, but they have been keeping away because of his presence," said keeper Wayne Davis. "As soon as the pigeons see him, they react. They fear predators.

The All England Club hired Davis' Avian Control Systems to patrol the grounds. The hawk came to the attention of Wimbledon officials after he was seen on a television documentary patrolling Westminster Abbey.

Hamish's day begins at 8 a.m. when the 37-year-old falconer sets him loose.

"You don't really want him to catch and eat any of the pigeons because he would then just call it a day," Davis said. "He is motivated by hunger."


FORGETTABLE The Times columnist Simon Barnes isn't exactly wild about this year's Wimbledon.

He listed the troubles in the first week: a boycott by two Spanish players; Jelena Dokic's father, Damir, smashing a reporter's telephone and being detained by police after a drunken tirade; accusations of racism by American Alexandra Stevenson; two French player accused by Stevenson denying her allegations; Andre Agassi charging referee Alan Mills with poor judgment after he delayed calling off a rainy match; complaints about top players always playing late; depressing English weather.

Bring on Week Two.


MOTHER'S DAY The call of Wimbledon was too strong for Yayuk Basuki of Indonesia.

The 29-year-old retired from the WTA Tour last year and nine months ago gave birth to a son. But after playing just one match at Indian Wells in March and a Fed Cup tie in April, she couldn't resist playing her favourite tournament one more time.

"I just came here for Wimbledon," said the former quarterfinalist. "I love grass even though we don't have any grass courts at home. I came here because I love Wimbledon and it's given me great memories. And also I can see everybody. All my friends are here. We're like family."

"I don't know where I'm going to play next," she added. "Probably some Asian tournaments so I can take my son with me. It's too hard for him to be flying all over America."


OLDIE The oldest player in men's singles, 35-year-old Gianluca Pozzi, defeated the youngest in 19-year-old Olivier Rochus to reach the fourth round. Pozzi won 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

NEXT US HOPE Jan-Michael Gambill has been billed as the next hope of American men's tennis.

This year at Wimbledon he's beginning to look like it.

The 23-year-old reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time on Friday with an 7-6 (10), 6-2, 6-2 victory over fellow American Paul Goldstein.

"I can definitely say this is the most focused that I've ever been been, certainly in a slam," said Gambill, who reached the third round of the U.S. Open two years ago.

"I'm having a great time. It's fun. I couldn't be happier."

Gambill meets ninth-seeded Thomas Enqvist next, the only seeded player left in the top half of the bracket besides six-time champion Pete Sampras. Another victory would put Gambill into the quarterfinals and silence critics who have doubted his ability to step in for Agassi or Sampras.

"Until now ... I haven't proven that I can be that guy. Now I'm playing it. It's getting closer. You never know."

"It's never been a burden, never been a burden for people to say: 'You could be the next guy.' It's a huge honor. It's great."

Gambill, who owns a half dozen Jaguars, is developing another love affair. "I am falling in love with grass," he said.

Don't look for him to be driving any Jaguars in Britain, however. Driving on the left throws him, to say nothing of gasoline prices that are about dlrs 6 per gallon.

"I wouldn't like to pay that much. I guess I'd do it if I had to. I like driving too much."


NEW MARTINA Martina Hingis won Wimbledon at 16. But last year, this year's No. 1 seeded player lost in the first round to Jelena Dokic. That defeat has provided motivation Hingis said after beating Silvija Talaja 6-2, 6-2 to reach the fourth round on Friday.

"It gives me an extra kick to do well here," the 19-year-old said. "I definitely have nothing to lose. I'm in a great situation." Hingis has lost only 12 games in three rounds. She needed barely an hour to beat Talaja, a talented Croatian ranked 22nd.

Hingis struggled to beat Talaja 7-6, 6-3 in May on clay at the German Open, but was in control from the start Friday.

"I play very well, very focused from the first point to the last," Hingis said. "I definitely remember her. I'm a different player on grass. It was a much better performance than lasssi and Todd Martin were asking on a rain-shortened Friday at the All England Club.

Play on Centre Courith other courts starting at noon. An earlier start could guarantee more matches, particularly in rain-prone England.

The Agassi vs. Martin match, won 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 10-8 by No. 2 seeded Agassi, was stopped Thursday by rain and completed Friday - beginning at 2 p.m. on Centre Court.

"If Wimbledon insists on starting at 2 that's going to happen especially considering the weather," said Martin, talking about postponed matches. "I would advocate, since the sun comes up at about 3 in the morning here, maybe start before 2 (p.m.).

Agassi was of the same mind.

"I think generally speaking 2 (p.m.) is relatively a late starting time in any tournament, especially a tournament that seems to have a lot of concerns for how the weather holds."


STEVENSON SAGA Anne-Gaelle Sidot has told her side of the Alexandra Stevenson saga.

The Frenchwoman admitted Friday she tugged on the hat of Alexandra Stevenson's mother, Samantha, but accused Mrs. Stevenson of lying about an incident on a practice court in Strasbourg, France.

On Thursday, Alexandra Stevenson accused another French player, Amelie Cocheteux, of cursing her and using a racial slur. Cocheteux denied the accusation.

Sidot, after losing her third-round match to Tamarine Tanasugarn

- off a practice court in Strasbourg.

"It's a lie," Sidot said. "Never, never, never, never. She said so many wrong things, so I'm not surprised that she said another thing."

Cocheteux said she may have cursed to herself in French because she was angry Stevenson's mother was coaching her during their match in Strasbourg, "but I didn't say anything to her. This is all pure invention. To tell you the truth, I hardly speak a word of English."


WHAT ANDRE LIKES John McEnroe, who is doing television for the BBC, got into this discussion the other day on the air with co-host David Mercer, a former umpire. Agassi's girlfriend Steffi Graf got into the conversation, too.

McEnroe: "Agassi likes to hit with his coach Brad Gilbert just before he plays a match. He likes to pop him a few times to get his confidence up."

Mercer: "I hear Andre tried the same with Steffi Graf before his matches in Paris and didn't much like the forehands she showed him."

McEnroe: "That doesn't matter because I think he likes a few of the other things she's shown him as well."

Mercer: "(long silence) ... Thanks, John."

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