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Wimbledon 97: Henman closes the roof question

Between a the odd session of indoor practice, light training in the gym, lunch, games of backgammon, and a yawn or two, Tim Henman was asked how he would feel if he was still at the All England Club a week next Monday.

"I would be delighted if I was still here," the British No 1 said. "I would not be so pleased if we were still in the first round.''

The questioner had a delayed men's singles final in mind, and if Henman were still around for that the nation would be in a state of high rejoicing, come hell or high water, neither of which is being ruled out.

What Henman does not want is a roof on the new No 1 Court, or any other court come to that. Nor would he favour a reduction in the men's singles matches from five sets to three.

"The issue of it being Wimbledon is irrelevant. I don't think there should be a roof. It's an outdoor tournament, and it should remain that way," he said.

"In Australia [where there is a retractable roof on the Centre Court in Melbourne], there's an issue with the heat. Everybody knows that when you go down to Australia it's going to be hot, and I think if you enter a tournament and you go down there you have got to be prepared to play in those conditions. It's obviously not going to be quite as hot here, but it's an outside tournament and I think it should remain that way.

"With regards to taking the singles to three sets, I would not like to see that happen. If it did happen I think it probably would lead to quite a few upsets, because grass, I think, does provide the opportunity for upsets.''

Did he think there would be a lot of opposition from his fellow players?

"It hasn't been spoken about a great deal, as an option. I can only speak from my point of view. But who knows? When you've got a situation like this, there's a lot of balls being thrown in the air.

"We have discussed roofs. Some people have the opinion that they would like to see a roof, and it would give the chance for tennis to be played and the fans to see it and for people to see it on television. But at the moment, you know, the players are just sort of switching off and trying to stay as relaxed as possible.''

The 17-year-old Venus Williams, purple, green and white beads in place, was also content to bide her time for her Wimbledon debut without bothering her head about a roof.

"Why would you want to play on grass and have a covered court when you can play in the sun if it's going to shine?" she said. "I don't think the courts should be covered. I'm sure they won't do it, either. It would ruin the tradition.''

Williams has found time for some sight-seeing with her younger sister, Serena. "We went to the Tower of London, and We went to the London Dungeons. that's where I wanted to go.''

Did she see the Crown Jewels? "Yes, we saw the jewels.''

Did she see anything she would like to take home?

"I won't tell you guys my plans now..."