Glorious tennis as Wimbledon record is smashed

Glorious sunshine and amazing tennis scenes meant the public flocked in their droves to Wimbledon this year, smashing attendance records at SW19.

Glorious sunshine and amazing tennis scenes meant the public flocked in their droves to Wimbledon this year, smashing attendance records at SW19.

At the end of the first week of Wimbledon fortnight some 245,000 people passed through the gates of the All England Lawn Tennis Club - up to 1,000 up on last year’s record-breaking figures.

Two other records smashed this week included the highest number of people on any one day 42,457 on Wednesday and the highest number for the first Friday of any Wimbledon 41,595.

Delighted organisers attribute the record attendance to the brilliant weather which south west London has enjoyed all week with temperatures rarely dropping below 20 degrees celsius (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).

Some observers had feared the football World Cup would damage interest in the tennis tournament but, with England being knocked out before Wimbledon began, the concerns have proved unfounded.

The fans have not been disappointed with some of the most amazing shocks witnessed at the tournament in the first week.

In what can only be described as a Wimbledon massacre, a staggering 13 of the top 15 seeded men were wiped out in the first week.

Among the biggest shocks were the defeats of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and the World number two Marat Safin, none of whom passed the second round.

But, in good news for Britain, the dream of a home player lifting the prize next Sunday in the Queen’s golden jubilee year, remains a very real possibility.

Both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski won their respective third round battles at the end of the first week and, if they continue their winning streak, could meet in a appetising all British final.

A spokesman for the All England Lawn Tennis Club said: ‘‘It has been a good week both in terms of the quality of tennis, the great crowds and the fine weather.

‘‘All this was achieved despite losing eight of the top 10 seeds in the men’s singles. It underlines how tight the margins between winning and losing at this level are and shows the strength in depth, particularly in the men’s game.

‘‘From a British perspective it has also been an exciting week and we hope both Greg and Tim can continue that success into the second week.’’

In the women’s singles, British heroine Elena Baltacha’s roller-coaster ended yesterday with a third round defeat.

The 18-year-old from Enfield, north London had saved the blushes of Britain’s women tennis players by being the only home player to pass through the first round.

She then won the heart of the nation when she beat the South African number 32 seed Amanda Coetzer in the second round.

But the youngster’s dream ended when she came up against the more experienced Elena Likhovtseva.

Fans enjoying the Wimbledon experience have also stunned organisers with a massive rise in demand for the traditional Wimbledon drink Pimms.

Frank McCartney, managing director of the tournament caterers MFc said around one in three people have bought the classic summer drink this year, compared to a normal average of around one in six.

He said: ‘‘I don’t know why we have sold so much. Perhaps it’s because all the pubs are advertising it.

‘‘Also, there does seem to be large number of foreign visitors here this year who will want a traditional Wimbledon drink along with the strawberries and cream.’’

Mr McCartney said the tennis fans were eating around two tonnes of strawberries.

With more good weather predicted for next week, and with Henman and Rusedski due to play in the last 16 tomorrow, organisers will be hoping next week is just as successful.

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