Squirrels, pigeons and mice -- Wimbledon's Centre Court has attracted a
menagerie of animals over the years who brought many a tense match to a
halt with their unwelcome intrusions.
Nowadays, though, it is
streakers who are the bigger
menace, prompting the tournament authorities last year to contemplate
putting up a fence between spectators and players.
The problem of animal intruders came to a
head in 1999 when German players Boris Becker and Nicolas
Kiefer were twice dive-bombed from the grandstand roof by pigeons.
So the All England Club gratefully accepted the services of a full-time
falconer to patrol the courts with a swooping bird of prey, named
Finnegan, acting as a highly effective deterrent.
Wimbledon librarian Alan Little, who boasts an encyclopaedic knowledge
of tournament history, has compiled for his annual Wimbledon compendium a
history of the most intriguing Centre Court invasions.
Back in 1949, the Centre Court ball boys had to chase a squirrel off
the hallowed turf while the players sat down to await the all-clear.
Pam Shriver once had to contend with a swarm of bees. One stung her
opponent, Kathy Rinaldi, on the arm and Shriver gallantly went over to
remove the sting.
John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg had their razor-sharp concentration disturbed in the
1989 semi-final by two sparrows swooping in low.
But the humans win the top prizes for the most eccentric interruptions.
In the 1957 gentleman's final, a Mrs. Helen Jarvis invaded the court,
shouting and waving a banner calling for a new world banking system.
A female streaker first took to the court in the 1996 men's final.
Last year, Maria Sharapova was startled by a streaker who leapt on to
Centre Court during her quarter-final against Elena Dementieva.
She averted her gaze as he cart-wheeled naked in front of her before
being bundled off court by security guards who wrapped him in a red
"I didn't want to look at all the details," Sharapova said.
But when told that some women spectators had been impressed by his
physique, she replied: "Maybe next time I'll take a look."