The matter of precisely who is seated in the royal box that overlooks Center Court is among the biggest sources of daily drama during the Wimbledon fortnight. And the guest list for "People's Saturday" -- the tournament's middle Saturday, on which an extra measure of Center Court tickets are sold to the common folk who wait in line overnight -- was an exceptional treat.
With an eye toward London's bid for the 2012 Olympics, British Olympians of every era and discipline were invited, along with assorted international sports stars, and they joined the masses in sending a message to the International Olympic Committee, which will render its decision in Singapore on July 6, by shouting, "Hip! Hip! Hooray!" three times for London's quest.
Never has a group of athletes been quite so handsomely turned out. The world of golf was represented by Ernie Els, dressed in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and pink tie. Nearby were skater Jayne Torvill; Chelsea soccer captain Tessa Sanderson; and Lawrence Dallaglio from the world of rugby. Tennis greats Billie Jean King and Tony Trabert were there, along with British rowers, pentathletes, sailors and track stars. And each was introduced by veteran Wimbledon announcer John Barrett, who saved his best line for the star who overshadowed all others: Actor Sean Connery, a man, Barrett said, "who, as 007, deserved a fistful of gold medals for nocturnal sports!"
Connery, as it turned out, also deserved a medal for cheering most fervently among royal-box occupants for 18-year-old Andrew Murray, the Scottish tennis sensation, who made his Center Court debut Saturday against the tournament's No. 18 seed, Argentine David Nalbandian.
Murray wasn't expected to fare well, given his inexperience and his 312th ranking. But he stunned even the former James Bond by winning the first two sets, which whipped the flagrantly partisan crowd into a frenzy. All they had wanted was for Murray to acquit himself with dignity against the Argentine. But against all odds, Murray was in contention.
Nalbandian, understandably, was the fitter man and survived this day, storming back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to win, 6-7 (7-4), 1-6, 6-0, 6-4, 6-1.
With all the attention on Center Court, the American Andy -- second-seeded Andy Roddick, playing on Court No. 1 -- was reduced to an afterthought. But he was rewarded with an easy day's work after capping off a twice-interrupted five-setter on Friday, advancing to the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Igor Andreev. On the women's side, top-seeded Lindsay Davenport cruised past Dinara Safina, younger sister of Marat Safin, 6-2, 6-1; and Venus Williams ousted Daniela Hantuchova, 7-5, 6-3.