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Wimbledon: Sun shines on fans soaking up action on People's Sunday

By Paul Newman

The sun shone and the rain stayed away. At this wettest of Wimbledons, that in itself would have been enough to make day seven of the tournament memorable, but the fact that it was also the fourth 'People's Sunday' in the 130-year history of the championships made this a particularly special occasion.

Just as in 1991, 1997 and 2004, a boisterous and enthusiastic crowd created a joyful atmosphere around the grounds of the All England Club.

Tournament organisers decided to play matches on 'Middle Sunday' because of the backlog of matches which had built up last week because of the bad weather. The 22,000 spectators who were admitted to the grounds were the lucky ones among the 111,000 who had gone online at 3pm the previous day to snap up the tickets, which sold out in just 27 minutes.

Considering that there were an average of 39,000 people in the grounds on the first six days of the tournament, it was no surprise that queues were kept to a minimum and that there was plenty of space on the outside courts in particular. While Wimbledon could have sold many more tickets, tournament organisers wanted to be sure that they could handle the numbers at such short notice, the decision to play on Sunday having been taken late on Friday.

For members of the public it was a rare opportunity to buy tickets for the tournament. For those outside the 'tennis family' who are not members of clubs or who are not debenture holders, the only way to get tickets is usually through the annual Wimbledon ballot, which is heavily over-subscribed.

With the seats for 'People's Sunday' unreserved, plenty of spectators arrived hours before the 11.30am start in order to get the best possible positions. For others an early start meant the opportunity to catch a glimpse of players practising. A big crowd gathered around Court 14, where Serena Williams had a hit in advance of her third-round meeting with Annika Beck.

When the matches got under way the crowds made up for any lack of numbers with the enthusiasm of their support. Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova in particular were given a standing ovation on Court One after a dramatic contest which ended with the Russian winning 6-7, 6-2, 8-6 despite having conducted a running argument with the umpire, Marijana Veljovic, who accused her of receiving illegal coaching from her entourage.

Williams recorded her 300th Grand Slam victory when she crushed Beck 6-3, 6-0 in only 51 minutes.

Twenty-four hours after her male counterpart as world No 1, Novak Djokovic, suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Sam Querrey, Williams never looked in danger of missing out on a fourth-round meeting today with Kuznetsova, despite being broken in her second service game.

The 34-year-old American, who dropped only four points in the second set, thought her struggles against Christina McHale in the previous round had helped her.

"I felt that losing that first set, which was so tight, and her playing better than she's ever played in her life really helped me to realise that I can play better and lift my game," Williams said.

Williams said she could sympathise with Djokovic. "Every time I step out on the court, if I don't win, it's major national news," she said. "But if I do win, it's just like a small tag in the corner."

However, Williams said she did not view that as a burden she had to carry.

"It is what it is," she said. "I look at it almost like something that's really awesome to be in that position."

Belfast Telegraph


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