Ian Wylie's working week at Wimbledon

03.07.06

Week two of Wimbledon. I arrive at 7.30am to find my desk at the press centre surrounded by police. It's the morning sniffer dog patrol. Even at this time of the day, there's plenty going on at the All England Club. Covering the world's greatest tennis tournament means putting the rest of your life on hold for two weeks. But at least you don't have to camp on the pavement like the fans who have been queuing since early yesterday to see Andy Murray this afternoon.

I'm here to provide coverage for our sports, news and features pages, and I'm also writing a twice-daily blog. As the subdued Scottish teenager serves up one hour and 53 minutes of disappointment, I notice a thin layer of smoke drifting across Centre Court. We later establish that it's from a fire in a nearby newsagent's shop which claimed the lives of three people.

Murray's victorious opponent, Marcos Baghdatis, knows nothing about the blaze when he walks into the interview room and says: "There's so many things more important than a tennis match in life — it's just a game." Nightmare tube journey home. Walk through the door at 10.30pm, ready for bed.

04.07.06

Back again at 7.30am. No police at desk. The lights are off in the toilets. Is this some sort of SW19 symbolism now that the last Brit is out? A streaker invades Centre Court during Maria Sharapova's match. It seems like an eternity before two security attendants find a red blanket and escort him off. I ask the Russian teenager about the incident at her post-match press conference. She's clearly not happy.

The first Chinese woman ever to reach the quarter finals is on court. But is it Na Li or Li Na? No one can decide. I do, however, establish beyond doubt that the population of China is 1.3 billion. Late in the evening, Martina Navratilova comes into the interview room and confirms this will be her last Wimbledon. Like every interview, it's fully transcribed and available on typed A4 sheets within minutes. Amazing.

05.07.06

There's a rumble of thunder as I'm shaving at 5.45am. Could it be Chinese tennis on the march? Back on Centre Court this afternoon, two fathers' rights campaigners, one from Manchester, briefly halt Roger Federer's match. I go off in search of reaction, while keeping one eye on the rest of my usual work and — during a rain delay — set up a couple of interviews for next week.

06.07.06

Sharapova shatters the shriek-o-meters on Centre Court.

Among other things, I write a feature on equal prize money for women. Late lunch at 5pm of strawberries and cream.

As the shadows lengthen, I watch Henri Leconte and Goran Ivanisivec clown around on Court One in the over- 35s gentlemen's doubles. Everything is so polite here. Back in the media restaurant, a Scottish journalist conducts a loud mobile phone interview. It soon becomes clear he's talking to that noted tennis expert — Gazza.

07.07.06

The two-minute silence for victims of the 7 July bomb attacks on London is perfectly observed. It's moving to see press operations manager Sarah Clarke and other Wimbledon staff standing in the rain. Exactly a year ago, I was at Tavistock Square, the scene of the bus bomb. Now, 12 months later, the green and pleasant grounds of SW19 seem far removed from the horror of that day.

I grab a taxi for Southfields, where there's another reminder. My tube is headed for Edgware Road, where one of the four bombs went off this time last year. I'm off to the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards. It was good to meet up with colleagues and see former MEN crime man Steve Panter inducted into the Hall of Fame. My editor, Paul Horrocks, collects the Publishing Innovation Award.

I get back to Wimbledon to find it's been raining most of the afternoon. Lucky for me, but not the spectators. Rafael Nadal charms the media after his semi-final win, including several young ladies who have no intention of asking any questions. Federer, who has enough cash to start a Swiss bank, admits to stealing the £24 Wimbledon towels the players are provided with on court. Cue obvious line about his opponent throwing in the towel. Fall asleep at home on the sofa watching the late night Freeview loop of Today At Wimbledon.

08.07.06

My friends, the sniffer dogs are back. It's ladies' final day and there's a real sense of occasion about the place. The television at each press desk includes feeds from all 19 courts, along with pages of info and stats. Pretty sure the current Chinese birth rate is in there somewhere. The TV also broadcasts the press conferences live, if you're too busy typing to walk the 20 seconds into the interview room.

I watch the ball boys and girls rehearsing for the royal presentation.

Later, I ask Amélie Mauresmo what she was thinking at the moment of victory. "No thoughts, just living the emotion," she replies.

09.07.06

Day 15 of my personal Wimbledon adventure. Everyone here is very tired, including a retired honorary steward, who started work at 6am, and a young girl from Liverpool on the restaurant till, who can't wait to go home. My locker neighbour is Bud Collins, the American sports writer and broadcasting legend. He comes dressed in a different colourful outfit every day. Today, his trousers are mainly featuring large strawberries.

Sitting just across the way from me, his desk has been a shrine to visitors. Bud welcomes each one like an old friend.

I watch the men's final from a commentary box opposite the umpire's chair. File my last piece for the sports pages, and parting shots for the blog. With the Champions' Ball about to start at the Savoy Hotel, I feel a sudden empathy for Cinderella. By 9pm, it's time to pack up my laptop and head home. I leave the All England Club with two bags crammed full of memories, though not — you'll be glad to know — any stolen towels.

 

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