Friday June 29th, 2007

So I arrived on the grounds Friday morning and, in the wake of last night's car bomb scare in downtown London, the security was tighter than Tim Henman in a fifth set. (Cheap shot. Sorry.)

As I prepared to stand on line for the Gate 16 bag check, an athletic-looking woman on a blue mountain bike pulled up. Amélie Mauresmo got off and waited in line. Good form prevented me from asking why she wasn't wearing a helmet.

"You can't come in here with that bike, missus," admonished a security guard, a Joe Strummer look-alike, sound-alike. Mauresmo calmly explained to the gendarme that she had always ridden her bike through the Wimbledon grounds without a problem.

"I'm just cutting through," she said.

"Well, you have to go around!" the guard snapped.

Mauresmo rolled her eyes and then did something remarkable. She turned and walked away. No fit of pique. No "do-you-know-who-I-am?" business. No gentle suggestion that perhaps the rules could be relaxed for the defending Wimbledon Ladies champion. No "get me your supervisor" business. (We recalled the story of Samantha Stevenson -- remember her? -- stopped by Russian security and demanding to speak with Vladimir Putin.)

No, Mauresmo just pedaled off, perhaps figuring her psychic energies would be more usefully devoted to her next match. Merde happens, she implied.

This was just another reminder that, when players are on the court or in press conferences they may offer glimpses into their personalities. Or they may not. Today's media-trained, media-savvy athletes reveal as much of themselves as they please in these controlled settings. Their agents and handlers would prefer they only spoke when they had a product to pitch or a charity event to plug.

Yet in unremarkable, unscripted, everyday moments, you can learn plenty about an athlete's disposition. Incidentally, after Mauresmo was out of sight, the guard complained that "some lady tried to ride a bike through here." His superior popped up, "That would be OK. Just check the seat next time and let her in."

In its continuing cash grab, the WTA announced Friday that the year-end championships would be moving to Doha, Qatar. It will then move to Istanbul, Turkey. In reference to the Shahar Peer controversy, WTA CEO Larry Scott asserted that, "Any member of the tennis family that wants to come to this championship is going to be allowed."....

Lovers of Fabrice Santoro (or those simply curious about what it would look like to watch a 1970s porn star hit a two-handed forehand): check the Austrian doubles player Julian Knowle. ... For all of Wimbledon's quaint touches, here's another: The entourages of both players share the same confined space. You have a stadium with thousands of seats and you couldn't put the two warring factions on opposites sides? ...

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2007 Wiimbledon (not a typo) champion. ... Nick Kiefer will join everyone's favorite bachelor, Mark Philippoussis, in the Newport, R.I., draw. ... Priscilla of Chennai, India, sends this fine link regarding how the weather tests skills at Wimbledon.

Check back this weekend for Wimbledon Midterm Grades.

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