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Clinton entertains soggy crowd

By DARRELL FRY, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 8, 2001


WIMBLEDON, England -- Former President Bill Clinton helped entertain the Centre Court crowd as play was delayed by rain Saturday.

Clinton, sitting in the Royal Box, was interviewed over the stadium public address system. He is somewhat knowledgeable about the game after playing recreationally for years and attending last year's U.S. Open and this year's French Open.

Here are some of the highlights from his interview:

On his tennis days: "I was not good. I was slow and inaccurate. But I liked it very much."

On his favorite players: "I like to watch players I know. I like Andre Agassi ... I obviously have met a lot of the American players -- the Williams sisters and others. And I enjoy watching a lot of these younger players who are just now sort of coming up and making their presence felt."

On his favorite tournament: "First of all, I love the U.S. Open and I was excited by the French Open ... but this is still the greatest tournament in the world. I mean, there's nothing like it."

SPIKE SIGHTING: Filmmaker Spike Lee was among the Centre Court spectators. Lee regularly attends NBA games, particularly ones involving his beloved New York Knicks.

Lee was one of the best dressed Saturday, sporting a light-blue striped suit with white and brown two-toned dress shoes and a straw hat. He was seen eating strawberries and cream.

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: Frustrated fans and players might prefer a retractable roof over the grass at Centre Court, but that seems as unlikely as the tradition-steeped tournament being played on artificial turf.

The second suspension of the men's semifinal and the postponement of the women's final might create havoc Monday for the men's final, which also has been pushed back a day.

No tickets have been sold and the security and catering staff must be retained. At least one TV network, NBC, has a clause in its contract to broadcast on Monday, club chief executive Chris Gorringe said.

It could be chaos if Tim Henman becomes the first Englishman in 63 years to reach the men's final with tens of thousands of fans rushing the quiet, leafy London suburb looking for tickets.

So why not put a dome on Centre Court?

Tim Phillips, tournament and All England Club chairman, said the club was concerned about the "micro-climate" a dome would create, perhaps producing dew on the grass.

"We've got top athletes who are trying to twist and turn on the grass."

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