An interesting article by the Guardian.
I'm really sorry if it was posted elsewhere, I didn't find anything like it.
Tim Henman tells Eleanor Preston what really goes on in Wimbledon's sacred changing facilities. Cricket, for a start.
Thursday June 17, 2004
So this is where Pete Sampras took a last, deep breath before walking out on Centre Court and winning his record 14th Grand Slam title. It is where Goran Ivanisevic and Tim Henman endured the agony of endless rain delays during their epic three-day semi-final in 2001; and where, less celebratedly, Henman and the Australian Pat Rafter re-enacted an Ashes Test series with embarrassing consequences.
The All England Club members' locker rooms are probably the most famous changing facilities in world sport. Yet muscle your way into the men's area (they are guarded with extraordinary vigour, even outside Wimbledon fortnight) and you might be in any high-end health club. The pale pine benches with rows of gold hooks above hardly look the stuff of legend. But, thanks to the peculiar value Wimbledon places both on rain and tradition, these rooms have attained the status of hallowed ground.
For the first few days of the tournament, the "Gentlemen Members' Dressing Room" is packed, despite the fact that only former champions and the top 16 seeds are allowed use of it and the adjoining physiotherapy room (the rest are confined to the locker rooms upstairs or under No1 court). "You've got players, coaches, over-35 players, everyone in there and it can be hard to find somewhere to relax sometimes," says Henman, who maintains a slavish loyalty to locker No27. "You've got lots of people stretching, jumping about, getting ready for their matches. The problem is we're one of the few sports that, unless you play first match, you don't know what time you're going to start. "You'll be sitting there, watching the match before yours, they're two sets to love up and you're thinking, 'Fine, I'm on in half an hour ...' You've already stretched and suddenly someone starts making a comeback. Then it could be another two and a half hours before you go on. That's when you need to find a quiet corner, stick some headphones on and relax - but it's not always that easy."
So often the last Briton left in the place, Henman must be lonely in his corner, given that space is occupied broadly according to nationality. Australians like Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis take up one area, the American contingent another, with the South Americans (at least those that show up) cloistered in their own section.
Occasionally the nationalities collide, usually when the customary rain is falling outside and boredom sets in. The time Henman and Rafter, driven stir crazy by the weather, decided to re-enact a recent Ashes series has passed into locker-room folklore. "I think I got given the cricket bat by Slazenger," Henman recalls. "I can't remember when and where and why, but there was one of those long rain delays and someone found it, so we started playing in the locker room. We moved all the benches to give us some room. We had one guy with a bat, and then probably about another 15 people in the slips going all the way around. It took up basically the whole locker room.
"But then, boys being boys, it got a bit carried away and someone tried to be a bit aggressive and followed through with the bat, and we demolished one of the ceilings. I think we managed to cover it up somehow, but that was when the game was abandoned - due to destruction of ceilings ..."
It is hard to imagine such high jinks occurring in the lady members' locker room but then their surroundings are rather more refined. They look and feel like the most luxurious spa, a haven of polished parquet floors, individual bathrooms and rich, dark wooden styling. Even the entrance, through an ante room of Palladian columns and murals, oozes elitism. Beyond that, past where the attendants wait with freshly laundered towels and new cakes of soap, lie heavily cushioned sofas and rugs. The All England Club may not have got its head around the notion of equal prize money but it does do a lovely bathroom.
"It's not like your average locker room," Jennifer Capriati agrees. "You know, there's like nice couches. I mean, the ladies that work in there ... you have teas, little biscuits and stuff like that. It's a nice place to be, so I don't mind going in there. I mean, it's really our own place to just get away and relax."
Little wonder the women get attached to their facilities; when Steffi Graf retired from tennis, Wimbledon presented her with the door of her favoured locker. Graf, like most players, had her locker-room rituals - many use the same shower or bath after successful matches, a superstition which occasionally causes outbreaks of bickering when it comes to bath-time.
"I used to love lounging in the bath and I was always convinced that Virginia Wade used to deliberately try to get in there before me to nick it," says the 1977 semi-finalist Sue Barker (Wade, of course, won the final), painting a picture familiar to anyone who has shared a house with teenage girls.
There are other causes of friction, some of which are nothing short of bizarre. Monica Seles was once almost prevented from getting on court in time for a match by Martina Navratilova's chihuahua. Seles had the locker next to Navratilova's, where the dog was loyally standing guard. He barked every time Seles so much as reached for a racket, forcing her to wait until his owner returned before she could go on court.
This locker room also features a great many make-up tables, where players may preen themselves ahead of their all-important television and media appearances. Rumours circulating in Anna Kournikova's heyday that the Russian had worn out all the mirrors were clearly unfounded; in fact they have always been at greatest risk from defeated players venting their frustrations.
Many a player (yes, even among the women) has stormed into these locker rooms and dented a door or two to exorcise their disappointment. Ceilings, though - now that's a different matter, eh Tim?