The Fourth Of July

FEELING a little down after Murray misery and penalty nightmares?
Spare a thought for our American friends. After their soccer team finished bottom of Group E in the World Cup, USA sports fans had hopes of better things at Wimbledon.
But as Independence Day dawned this morning, there was not a single American left in the main draw, their worst performance since 1911.
That, and the hangover from yesterday’s Caledonian calamity, was reflected today in the queue for daily tickets along Church Road – the shortest so far during the 2006 Championships.

Temperatures are set to hit 32C later this afternoon with officials poised to enforce the “extreme weather condition rule” if necessary. It allows women players to take a ten minute break if a complicated “heat stress” index allows. Strangely, the rule does not apply to the men.
There was plenty of heat stress for spectators trying to get home on the underground last night. On the day London Mayor Ken Livingstone warned people could die on the tube because of the current heatwave, a series of problems left some tennis fans fearing just that.

A 13-minute journey from nearby Southfields station to Earl’s Court took closer to an hour, with thousands of people trapped on several trains backed up along the line. At one station, passengers who had endured scorching temperatures in the carriages tumbled out on to the platform gasping for fresh air. It was just about the last straw for several American visitors to SW19.
Relief is on the way, along with thunderstorms. The end of the heatwave will bring downpours, currently forecast for tomorrow and Thursday. Not good news for spectators, but at least it will give the teams of court coverers something to do. They’ve been all but unemployed since the first day washout.
Today is ladies’ quarter finals day. On Centre Court, grunting Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, plays fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, while Na Li – the first Chinese woman ever to reach this stage – takes on Belgian Kim Clijsters.
Over on Court No 1, 2001 Belgian finalist Justine Henin-Hardenne faces French qualifier Severine Bremond and her compatriot, No 1 seed Amelie Mauresmo, meets Russian Anastasia Myskina.
As for Andy Murray, his remaining interest in this year’s Wimbledon ended last night when he and partner Kirsten Flipkens were knocked out of the second round of the Mixed Doubles in straight sets. As we may be about to find out here over the next few days, it never rains but it pours.

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