BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Overend
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The park, the roof, the bunker and the Stich

Jonathan Overend | 12:22 UK time, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

This is my seventh Wimbledon as 5 Live's specialist tennis voice and I can't remember being this excited on the eve of the event. Maybe it's Andy Murray, maybe it's Roger Federer, maybe it's the most number of broadcast hours we've ever done on 5 Live and Sports Extra, maybe it's the sausage rolls...

I walked through Wimbledon Park at 6.30am on Monday and passed hundreds and hundreds of fans who had queued overnight, some since Friday, and the impromptu games of football and cricket were already beginning. I love the atmosphere in the park, it's full of optimism and good fortune, and it gets you pumped for the fortnight ahead.

BBC commentary box, centre court

When you walk through the gates on the first morning of the tournament, you really do get a special feeling of anticipation. The nets are still to go up, some of the lines are still to be painted and of course not a single blade of grass is out of place.

I headed straight to centre court for the regular round of Breakfast interviews - Nicky Campbell for 5 Live, Garry Richardson on Radio 4's Today programme. We stand just be the edge of the court and they actually did a trial closing-and-opening of the new retractable roof while we were on-air. It looks amazing; shame the forecast is so good this week!

After that, a hearty breakfast to set me up for a long day, in the company of Garry and one of my predecessors as BBC Radio Tennis Correspondent, the evergreen Gerry Williams, before heading to the BBC Radio bunker to discuss the day's programme.

At 10.30am we had our regular team meeting when all our guest pundits join in and meet the rest of the crew. One of the best things about 5 Live at Wimbledon is the team spirit (hopefully that is reflected on the air) and our guests, many of whom have won Wimbledon, really muck in and contribute ideas, stories and interviews.

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Everything is a bit frantic in the few minutes before we go on-air at 12.30pm but with Simon Mayo settled into the presenter's chair, Clare Balding out on the hill and Russell Fuller watching Laura Robson on Court 2, the opening music played and we were off and running.

Within the first couple of hours, Laura had been and gone after a brave performance against Daniela Hantuchova, Federer had entertained us with his waistcoat and personalised racket sellophane and I'd already had my first row with Michael Stich.

People think we don't like each other - we always seem to be arguing about something and this time it was about the WTA rankings and the suitability of Dinara Safina as world number one.

Michael argued that it's irrelevant that she's never won a major title and she is the best player because the rankings say so (I think he held back from the excruciating cliche "the rankings don't lie" but that's basically what he was saying).

I argued that people outside the "tennis bubble" only really care about the major championships and it's a bit farcial that Serena Williams can win Wimbledon this year, therefore holding three of the four Grand Slam titles, but still not overtake Safina as number one.

Yes it got a bit lively - yes we're often having arguments - but do we get on away from the microphones? Of course we do. We just like to stir up a bit of debate!


  • Comment number 1.

    Had Wimbledon not been damaged a bit by Nadal absence this year? Would have been great to see him, Federer and Murray going for it, but Murray will probably never get a better chance now.

    Absolutely correct about the women's ranking argument. Serena Williams is the best female tennis player in the world, even if she doesn't win Wimbledon this year. Safina still most famous for being Marat Safin's sister.

    Bizarrely looking forward to some rain this year, just to see the roof in action.

  • Comment number 2.

    Mr Stich is correct. and people outside the "tennis bubble" are also called "fairweather fans", now why is it these types get treated with distain in football circles, but are treated as the norm in tennis circles?

    Says a lot about the place of tennis in this country in my opinion, which is in turn reflected in the win percentage of British players in the first round this year.

  • Comment number 3.

    I cant say I agree with you Jonathan. Safina has been without doubt the form player of the year. Look at the way she stormed through her opening rounds at the French Open, she hardly lost a game! She deserves to be number one because shes the most consistent perfomer over the year.
    In saying that I do think the Williams sisters are the ones to beat at Wimbledon..they always are. But on any other surface (particularly clay) I would probably fancy Safina over them both at the moment.
    Loving the BBC wimbledon coverage as ever.

  • Comment number 4.

    Now that the roof is in place, how will the referee schedule matches in order to be fair to the players - that is, make sure that players that are going to face each other in the next round have the same amount of rest? (i.e. Federer plays, his potential next round opponents are rained out and play tomorrow and only get 24 hours rest...or worse!)

    Finally, will someone at the BBC challenge the referee on the balance of men's and women's matches on Centre and no.1 courts when they play together up to the 4th round. (Remember Venus Williams on court 2 last year?) I seems that no matter which matches are on offer, without fail there are 2 men's singles and 1 women's singles scheduled. It's harder to blame them this year because women's tennis is a bit down, but that isn't the case every year. Some examples still: Youzhny and Ferrero got a runout on no.1 on Day 2 over Safina or even former champion Mauresmo? The French Open champion Kuznetsova hasn't even been on either, but Soderling, the finalist of the men got a spot on no.1 in the first round! You would think that the WTA would take a stand and protest sometime though?



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