WIMBLEDON will have a new champion holding aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish this afternoon.
It’s allez les bleus as France’s World No 1 Amelie Mauresmo faces Belgian No 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne at 2pm, the first time they’ve ever clashed on grass.
“It is more about the nerve than the tennis at this stage,” says Justine, who had to default the Australian Open Final to Amelie earlier this year because she was feeling unwell.
The tennis experts make Justine the slight favourite, if only because of fears that Amelie will lose the mind game out on Centre Court. She’s been haunted by nerves in the past but has a great chance to lay all that to rest.
The ball boys and girls have already been out on the world’s most famous tennis court this morning to rehearse the royal presentation this afternoon. It’s a very special weekend for everyone involved in the finals.
Just before that match starts, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are coming in to talk to us about tomorrow’s dream men’s final, one of the most eagerly anticipated for years.
Spanish hearthrob Nadal, the King of Clay, has finally proved he’s a real grass act and now has a shot at halting the Fed Express. He’s beaten him before, but never on grass.
Nadal, 20, charmed the media last night in his press conference after the semi-final win over Marcos Baghdatis. There were also several young women in the room who had no intention of asking any questions.
“I gonna play against one of the best of the history, especially in this surface,” he said in his ever improving English. “So I need to play my best match in my life, no? For win? So I gonna try that.”
As sharp off court as on, he occasionally asked his translator to explain a word in a question that he didn’t understand, before hitting back an answer including the previously unknown word – now logged in his brain for future use.
After switching to questions in Spanish, he went up on to the roof of the neighbouring Broadcast Centre and took part in BBC2’s Today At Wimbledon live highlights show, where he was a little more subdued but equally as impressive. The bookmakers make Federer hot favourite, but Rafael would be a hugely popular winner.
While Nadal was talking to John Inverdale and co, the man he defeated was on the terrace of our media restaurant. Posing for pictures, Baghdatis was watched by an adoring crowd of Greek Cypriots who had gathered downstairs by the ground floor exit to the press centre and were cheering him on. He may have lost his final match, but he left SW19 last night a winner.
Walking into Wimbledon this morning, there was a certain amount of sadness around. Many of the young temporary workers who provide the lifeblood of the tournament behind the scenes have completed their last shifts.
Although Centre Court will be buzzing on the two final days, with a full programme also on No 1 Court, most of the outside courts have seen their last action in the 2006 Championships.
So far, a total of 393,330 spectators have been through the gates. But with less tennis to see away from the show courts, fewer people attending on the last few days means lower numbers of staff are needed in kitchens, restaurants, shops and security posts. They’ve worked very hard and deserve the weekend off.
While some are just starting their working life at Wimbledon, others are preparing to retire. This afternoon’s final will be the last here in the professional life of BBC commentator John Barrett, in his 36th year at SW19. “It will be a great thrill,” he says. “It’s been a great privilege to work at Wimbledon over the past 35 years.” Let’s hope Amelie and Justine serve up a fitting finale.