Despite brisk breezes and laden skies, Saturday was a perfect day at Wimbledon for the average tennis fan. The price of strawberries and cream came down from 90 to 75 pence [about $1.50] a dish. The thousands who stood in line for daily general admission tickets all got in. And Wimbledon's biggest upset, the dramatic straight -- set defeat of John McEnroe, took place outside the exclusive Centre Court on Court No. 2, the people's center court, where the real action had been all week.
There are two Wimbledons each year during the world's best -- attended forthnight of tennis: posh Wimbledon and proletarian Wimbledon. TPosh Wimbledon is for members of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, their guests and other well -- connected swells. They put on their best English country weekend clothes, drive or are driven to Wimbledon in the suburban Surrey "Stock -- brokers' Belt" south of London, park on the club's outer playing fields, take their tea in the walled -- off club members' enclosure and the fancy "hospitality marquee" tents of big business and tournament sponsors, and watch the tennis from reserved seats at Centre Court and the covered stands of adjacent Court No. 1.
Proletarian Wimbeldon is for the more numerous ordinary Britons and hordes of tourists in London at this time of year. Dressed in everything from blue jeans to coats and ties, they travel on packed subway trains to the station nearest Wimbledon and finish the journey by taxi or bus shuttles of on foot.
They stand in line for the $3 tickets that admit them to the grounds for the day. They then must scramble through the swirling crowds for bleacher seats or standing room around the outside courts, or else settle for hours of pushing and shoving through the narrow walkways between courts, catching a glimpse now and then of a familiar player.
The lines for a precious few $6 to $12 tickets sold daily for Centre Court and Court No. 1 begin forming outside the grounds the night before. Fans seeking Centre Court tickets for Saturday's men's singles final will start lining up Tuesday night for a four -- day vigil.
Those with the money and wit can buy Centre Court tickets from scalpers at prices reaching several hundred dollars each or pay London teenagers up to $10 a day to hold their place in line. Many unsuspecting tourists already have been cheated this year by people selling them counterfeit tickets, to last year's Winbledon and general admission tickets passed off as those for the Centre Court.
Proletarian Wimbledon veterans knowingly stake out a free seat or place to stand alongside one of the outer courts as soon as the gates open at noon, and spend the afternoon and evening watching the doubles teams and up-and-coming singles players who have matches on that particular court. Much of the rest of proletarian Wimbledon seemed to gravitate at one time or another last week to the crowded seats and standing room areas of Court No. 2.
Just across Wimbledon's main pedestrian thoroughfare from enclosed Court No. 1 and Centre Court, Court No. 2 is where the overflow of matches featuring top players are played. Many of Wimbledon's most exciting matches and all of this year's biggest upsets have taken place there.
Tickets for seats in its two open-air stands can be bought for $2 by anyone who gets there quickly enough after the gates open at noon. There also is standing room for countless hundreds more at the top of one of the stands and along walkways on each side of the court. The milling throngs in the walkways, being barked at by Wimbledon stewards trying to keep a small passageway clear, create one of the great distractions that may be responsible for some of the upsets there.
While posh Wimbledon remains very British, proletarian Wimbledon is increasingly international. When Britain's Mark Cox struggle from behind Friday to beat towering Gilles Moretton of France on outlying Court No. 14, he heard so many Frenchmen cheering on his opponent that he later said it was like playing in Paris.
The crowd in the open stand at Court No. 3 watching Adriano Panatta of Italy beat Allen Mayer of the United States in a spirited match Saturday appeared to be divided between Italians and qamericans, with the Italians clapping rhythmically, loudly chanting "Adriano, Adriano" and crying out "Bravo" betwen points in an un -- Wimbledon way.
For those without the connections, money or sense of adventure to watch Wimbledon in person, there is saturation television and radio coverage throughout Britain. BBC radio broadcasts continuous play-by-play from Wimbledon each tournament day. BBC television broadcasts live play from 2 o'clock in the afternoon until after 7 in the evening, plus videotaped highlights later at night.
A record 28 countries -- including the U.S., Australia, South Africa, Japan, Algeria, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and almost all those of Europe -- will see the women's and men's finals on television Friday and Saturday.
The commentators here seem to suffer from the same fondness for cliche and unnecessary detail as sports announcers everywhere. There was a plethora last week of "pulling out all the stops," players in "full flight and really flowing" and scenes of "pain of anguish across the court."
Viewers were told about Roscoe Tanner's changed haircut, Virginia Wade's new frizzy style and Marthy Reissen's meticulous wave and blowdry.
There also have been miscues by commentators in a sport and a country that are both belatedly coming to terms with race and sex. Ealier this week, the BBC Radio commentator setting the scene for a match told his listeners, "Here we are on Court No. 7, where Yannich Noah, the Negro from France, but who is quite light actually, is facing Ramish Krishnan of India, who is actually much darker."
Another BBC Radio commentator observed of Czechoslovakia's singles Tomanova during a women's singles match that, "if they awarded seedings on the basis of good looks, she would definitely be a senior seed."
Nearly three-fourths of Center Court tickets are reserved of Center England Club members, the players and their guests, the press, English country tennis associations, guests of coporate sponsors and buyers of five-year "debenture tickets" that are traded like stocks on the London financial mrket. About 2,500 seats are sold by lottery each year to mail applicants [of which there were nearly 60,000 this year].
The 30,000-plus persons who make it into Wimbledon each day [almost as many were turned away at the gate on the most popular day last week] are offered, in addition to the dishes of strawberries and cream, $1.30 hot dogs, $2.25 smoked salmon sandwitches and champagne at $3 a glass or $20 a bottle.
The most conspicuous sign of commercial sponsorship -- besides the Coke and Robinson's barley water signs on the water cooler, the Rolex digital clock on the scoreboard and the Slazenger panther symbol on the green blackdrop of Centre Court -- is the tent city of "premotional marquees" beyond the outside courts. Since 1975, corporations such as Commercial Union, IBM, British Petroleum, Barclays Bank and NBC -- 28 in all this year -- have rented space from the All England club for fancy tents in which they wine and dine clients and employes from all over the world.
Some guests get Centre Court tickets in the bargain; the rest can watch play from television sets inside the tents if they wish.
"One reason for the marquees is the appalling food served everywhere else here," said Geoffrey Mullis of Commercial Union, who first suggested setting up the tents. He hosted a gourmet luncheon for nearly 200 people inside his tent on opening day.
Besides the crush around the outside courts, food is the prime complaint at Wimbledon, from that at the outdoor stands to that of the tennis writers' bar and cafeteria, where a prominent sign warns: "Card playing is strictly prohibited." Enough bets are made there on the tennis matches.