Wimbledon `97: Lake's designs on stage career

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The Independent Online
Valda Lake, the 28-year-old Devon player, is swapping tennis for another kind of set. She is retiring to concentrate on her new career as a theatre set designer in New York.

The bubbly Lake never rose to great heights on the tennis court but she had 12 years on the circuit and was good enough to play for the British Fed Cup team last year and was runner-up to Wales' Sarah Loosemore in the British National championships at Telford in 1988.

"I've been living in New York for the past two years, dabbling between tennis and set designing," she said. "But now I'm going to go full time with my design work. It's been great fun playing tennis all round the world but I guess you have to finish some time."

Certainly Valda bowed out of Wimbledon with one last bright memory. Playing with the Berkshire player, Paul Hand, she was beaten in the first round of the mixed doubles by the South African John-Laffnie De Jager and a certain Martina Hingis.

But as she said: "It was a good way to finish, playing against the best player in the world."

Wimbledon is a time when all the former greats gather to chew the fat and Charlie Pasarell, twice a record breaker at Wimbledon, is no exception.

Pasarell, who runs the Indian Wells tournament in California and serves on the ATP Tournament Council, holds two records at Wimbledon that may never be equalled.

He played an epic match against Pancho Gonzales in the 1969 championships which lasted for five hours and 12 minutes, the longest in Wimbledon history.

Two years earlier, he had beaten Manuel Santana, the Spaniard who was defending his title, in the first round, the first and only time that the holder has been beaten in his opening match.

Pasarell, still looking very fit, said: "It seems like yesterday when I played Pancho and I still feel tired."

Firefighter Eddy Spong, of the London Fire Brigade Western Command, has been stewarding at Wimbledon for 24 years but he did not realise he might have another connection with the All England Club.

Eddy's 12-year-old daughter, Samantha, was browsing through a Wimbledon programme when she noticed an article about A E H Spong, who had won the All-England Croquet championship three years running in the 1890s.

"Samantha asked me if we were related to this fellow," Eddy said. "But I don't really know. There are not too many Spongs about so there could be some connection."

What has been the most amusing match at Wimbledon this year? According to many onlookers, it was a mixed doubles match in the first round.

What was good about it? On one side of the net was the American Kelly Jones, playing with the Australian Kristine Kunce, and on the other was Kelly's wife, Tami, partnered by the South African Brent Haygarth.

Kelly, as a dutiful husband, never hit the ball too hard at his wife. But Tami had no such worries. She belted the ball at Kelly with all her might.

It didn't do a lot of good. Kelly and Kristine won 6-4 6-3, but they all had a good laugh, which makes a change in these days of high-powered tennis.

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