THE last point has been won and the light is fading. It’s time to take my leave of Wimbledon 2006.
Before the men’s final, the band on Centre Court played Is This The Way To Amarillo? What followed turned out to be the route to Roger Federer’s fourth consecutive SW19 win.
With every inch of the arena packed, I watched the match from a commentary box directly opposite the umpire’s chair, along with some of the Spanish press who had flown in en masse to witness Rafael Nadal’s bid to overthrow the champion.
Their man sprinted on to court like a boxer, but was soon floored by Federer’s punch. “Heez not taking ‘is chances. Eee will lose,” was the gloomy early verdict in the box on the Spaniard’s performance.
It was a little premature, but ultimately correct. A small dust storm whipped across the baseline as Federer dropped his first set of the Championship. But within 35 minutes crowd favourite Nadal’s revival was blown out and the Swiss ace had his cream jacket on awaiting the trophy presentation.
IT’S day 15 of Wylie’s Wimbledon and almost time to say farewell to SW19.
First, there’s the little matter of today’s men’s singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It’s currently cool, cloudy and blustery but the temperature should be red hot on Centre Court this afternoon.
The Spanish and Swiss media have invaded the press centre and were still in animated discussion about “Rafa’s” chances when I left here last night. Nadal leads 6-1 in their head to heads, including victory in last month’s French Open Final on clay.
Defending Wimbledon champion Federer is going for a fourth consecutive title. He is the King of the Grass, but Rafa has finally conquered the surface and is being tipped to run the Swiss ace close, possibly over five sets. There may be a World Cup Final on tonight, but this is a very big story for the 700 international journalists here.
AMELIE Mauresmo cherished the moment for a second and then lifted the greatest prize in women’s tennis high into the air.
“I don’t want anybody to talk about my nerves anymore,” smiled the new Wimbledon champion as she finally held the silver gilt Venus Rosewater Dish in her hands after a tense 2-6 6-3 6-4 triumph.
There were no complaints from defeated Belgian Justine Henin Hardenne, who lost the three set final in two hours and two minutes. “She just played better than me. She was just too good,” said the No 3 seed.
Tears flowed after the last point as the world number one sank to her knees and held her face in her hands. She then followed the now traditional path through the crowd to the player’s box, where she embraced her coach Loic Counteau. The elation – and relief – was clear.
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.
THERE’S a towel thief at Wimbledon and his name is Roger Federer.
“Yeah, I do take a few,” smiled the No 1 seed after sweeping aside Jonas Bjorkman in just 77 minutes. “I have a big collection, stacked back home.”
At £24, the men’s and ladies’ towels are one of the biggest sellers in the Wimbledon shops. I’ve bought quite a few myself over the years.
But Federer, who has enough money to open a Swiss bank, doesn’t need to flash the plastic. “It’s a good gift. We only get them on the courts and not in the locker room.”
HERE is the Centre Court of the future.
Just hours after the men’s champion receives the trophy on Sunday, work will begin to serve up a spectacular retractable roof.
Rain delays – and Cliff Richard singalongs – will be a thing of the past by the 2009 Championships, at least on the court Wimbledon calls its “jewel in the crown”.
After the last spectator has left the grounds, contractors will move in on Monday morning to begin preparatory work. When the entire project is finished it will enable play to continue in all weathers.
MARIA. You’ve gotta see her. Ms Sharapova lost a three set semi final thriller today but fought like a tigress against No 1 seed Amelie Mauresmo.
The 2004 champion shattered the shriek-o-meter on Centre Court and had the crowd on their feet as she battled to stay in the match.
But with France already in the World Cup Final on Sunday, Mauresmo overcame her nerves to set up a potential national sporting double this weekend.
She even celebrated like a footballer, leaping up and punching the air after one wonder shot, and again when she clinched victory at the end of two hours and 13 minutes.
Maria, who we must remind ourselves is still only 19, tried everything. She even pushed the mute button on her screaming for two shots at the end of one rally. Amelie was so stunned, she lost the point.
WIMBLEDON has two new heroes…at least for one day.
Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and Swede Jonas Bjorkman were both full of smiles after winning their way into the men’s singles semi finals.
I was on Henman Hill / Murray Mount when Baghdatis sealed his four sets quarter final over Lleyton Hewitt just after 8pm last night. It was almost as packed as for earlier matches involving Tim and Andy.
And the fans on the hill cheered loudly as the flamboyant man from the village of Paramytha – it means “fairytale” – celebrated his win.
Watching from the stands, his mother Andry had her prayers answered as her boy – the conquer of Andy Murray – went through, helped by Aussie Hewitt’s error-strewn performance.
“I love this game,” said Marcos afterwards, who had no problems expressing his joy on court. “That’s the way I am. That’s who I am. I love playing in front of so many people.”
SWISS ace Roger Federer has dashed any hope of anyone stopping his march towards a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title.
Rather unsportingly, he’s refused an invitation to actually play his remaining matches in the cream jacket he wears to walk on to court.
“Maybe I can still try that out some other time. But it’s not the time for jokes now,” insisted the defending champion, who must be a fashion god in downtown Basel.
THUNDER, lightning and violent storms over London at 6am today. It’s stopped for the moment – but the forecast for play in SW19 this afternoon is not good.
A severe weather warning is the last thing those queueing to get in want to hear with four men’s quarter finals due on court.
By 8am there were just 700 people in the queue – with 500 tickets available on each of Centre and No 1 courts. So, surprisingly, you could have had a lie in and arrived late to claim a ticket for Stepanek v Bjorkman and Nieminen v Nadal on No 1.
On this, the last day show court tickets are available to the queue, there were also 500 tickets on offer for No 2 court. Weather allowing – and it may not – it’s due to host a ladies’ doubles match and later a mixed doubles tie, both involving a certain Martina Navratilova. The nine times Wimbledon singles champion is still on track for a record 21st title here.
As shadows engulfed the courts last night, Martina, who turns 50 in October, walked into the press interview room and confirmed this will be her very last Wimbledon.