BLUE sky over Wimbledon. Even early in the morning it was sunny and hot, casting shadows over the courts.
Time for the sun cream, along with defending champion Venus Williams to make her first appearance on Centre Court.
Match of the day for British fans is scheduled last on the same court. Tim Henman has nothing to lose against Roger Federer. It’s a perfect summer’s day.
The queues outside are the longest so far. Camp out overnight and you stand a good chance of a seat on Centre or Court One. Arrive by 7am and a four-hour wait will probably get you a ground pass, which can be just as much fun.
You wonder how many of the international press correspondents in the media centre actually realise how lucky they are. Sure, the hours are gruelling. I aim to be here by 7am each day and try to leave by 9.30pm. That just leaves time for sleep and a quick shower before you’re back to greet the police sniffer dogs.
But there are absolutely no complaints. It’s a huge privilege to cover this event, even if the work schedule means lunch is a bowl of strawberries and cream at 5pm and dinner a banana sandwich near midnight.
Just 20 seconds walk from my desk is the press interview room. At times it can get a little surreal. Press conference alerts are broadcast as and when the players come off court. Usually there’s a 15-minute warning counting down to a final: “Andre Agassi will be in the main interview room immediately.” With the emphasis on the word “immediately”. Doesn’t do to keep legends waiting.
Last night it was relentless. Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Andy Murray, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Roger Federer and, yes, even our old friend Benjamin Becker, were just some of the people calling by for a chat.
And yet, ironically, most of the press are simply too busy writing stories to leave their desks, especially as evening deadlines approach. Agassi may be tennis royalty at his very last Wimbledon, but he warrants a mere glance on the interview channel – one of 29 on my TV totally devoted to coverage of the courts, stats and other media info.
As you may have read from last night’s blog, I attended the Henman press conference, taking the usual shorthand notes. No need. Within ten minutes copies of a full three-page typed transcript were being handed out. Now how do they do that?
One Portugese journalist was particularly keen to get Tim’s score prediction for the England v Portugal World Cup quarter final on Saturday. “You haven’t got any players left, have you – I think we’ll win,” smiled Henman. If I’d missed that smile, it was there in black and white in the transcript.
Oblivious to the fact that he’s actually Scottish, the same question was later put to Andy Murray. Luckily he was in a good mood after his impressive first round victory. Andy predicts penalties.
For more images, go to Wylie’s Wimbledon 2006 Photos.