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Don’t scream please, you’re at Wimbledon

sports Updated: Jun 26, 2007 01:29 IST
Paul Majendie
Paul Majendie
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Decorum reigns supreme at Wimbledon, a bastion of middle class gentility where the British stiff upper lip never trembles on the hallowed Centre Court.

At the Australian and US Grand Slams, crowds whoop and holler for their favourites and French crowds sometimes love to boo any sign of gamesmanship from a player. Not so at Wimbledon, where etiquette is everything. The programme for the world's most famous tennis tournament even warns fans how to behave:

Do not make a noise during a rally.

Do not applaud a net cord or double fault.

Gentlemen are requested to keep their shirts on.

No babes in arms are allowed in any show court.

All that is half the attraction for the legions of middle-aged, middle-class couples who troop up from the country on their annual pilgrimage to Wimbledon. After champagne and strawberries and cream at elegant picnics, fans stroll into the Centre Court stands in orderly fashion.

"It certainly does reflect the British character," said Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins. "This is all part of a quintessentially British experience — echoes of tennis and croquet in an English country garden with everyone enjoying themselves."

The contrast could not be more with Britain's raucous soccer stadiums and the "barmy army" of fans who follow English cricket. Golf is the nearest equivalent, Perkins argued. "Both sets of fans have the knowledge and the respect for the players and their fellow fans," he said. "The Wimbledon crowds are both knowledgeable and sporting. A lot of the people who come here are tennis players," he added.

Wimbledon crowds also revel in that perennial topic of British conversation — the weather. In the inevitable rain breaks that constantly pepper Wimbledon, they sit huddled under umbrellas stoically sipping tea from a thermos and glancing hopefully at the sky. Bookmaker William Hill are offering odds of 5-1 for a naked fan on court during the men's final and 4-1 at the ladies final. Decorum may be the order of the day among the fans but definitely not among the players, bookmakers believe. "It's a 100-1 shot that there will be no argument between a player and an umpire during the tournament. The spirit of John McEnroe is alive, well and still arguing," spokesman Graham Sharpe said.