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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Wimbledon set to start on 2nd July under the eyes of Rufus, the hawk


2nd July is an all important date !  ~ it is the date on which Wimbledon starts – as the trophy is set to start, British  fans are already scrambling for days off, tickets and a chance to watch one of the best tournaments on the tennis calendar. Reports from The Championships, including on wimbledon.com, will sometimes refer to events being in ‘SW19’. This is the first part of the postal address of the Wimbledon area – the equivalent of a Pincode in India, zip code in the US. London postcodes were first developed in 1857, with Wimbledon being in the area labelled SW – for South West London. Other urban areas of the UK were gradually brought into the system. 

In 1917, during World War One, numeric codes were added to improve efficiency based on geography and the alphabet. Wimbledon became SW19. In the early seventies, with sorting at the Royal Mail increasingly mechanised, it was decided every address should have a fuller postcode which would identify a cluster of houses or major delivery point.  The postcode of the All England Lawn Tennis Club is SW19 5AE.

There are many Courts at Wimbledon besides the  famed Centre court.  Historically, Court 14 has been a springboard for champions – most memorably on Tuesday 2 July, 1985, when Boris Becker beat Tim Mayotte, the No.16 seed, in the fourth round after a tumultuous struggle. Trailing two sets to one, the 17-year-old tumbled in the 12th  game of the fourth set. In a lot of pain, it looked to the spectators packed around Court 14 that the game was up for the German wunderkind, but coach Gunther Bosch shouted at him to fight on. He did, taking the tiebreak 7-5 and securing victory on the fourth match point in the decider, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2. Five days later, Becker became the first unseeded player and the first German to win the Wimbledon gentlemen's singles title. In the same year, the court came alive with Australian fervour as Liz Smylie dramatically upset No.3 seed Hana Mandlikova, then the most potent threat to the reigning duopoly of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (who were jointly seeded No.1).

Sunday – not a great news for British fans as Andy Murray  pulled out of Wimbledon with injury.  “It’s with regret I’m withdrawing from Wimbledon,” Murray said, having indicated only 24 hours before that he was ready and fit to play, “unless in the next couple of days I wake up and don’t feel good”.   This is the fifth tournament in seven that Murray has entered and then withdrawn at or near the last possible minute. Nursing a chronically painful hip – which required surgery in January – he pulled out of the US Open last September, the Brisbane Open over the New Year, the Australian Open and then, most recently, an ATP250 grass court tournament at Rosmalen in the Netherlands. He did then play at Queen’s, losing to Nick Kyrgios in three sets, then at Eastbourne last week, beating Stan Wawrinka before losing 6-4, 6-4 to Kyle Edmund. Those performances looked promising but he has nonetheless pulled out of Wimbledon.

Serena Williams is hoping the grass of SW19 will once more prove a happy hunting ground as she returns to action at Wimbledon on Monday for the first time since becoming a mother. The queen of centre court won her seventh Wimbledon singles title and sixth doubles title at the All England Club in 2016 before missing last year’s tournament while pregnant with Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. The winner of a record 23 grand slam singles titles in the open era, the big question is whether she can equal and ultimately surpass Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.

Up until the Millennium, “birds stopped play” was a common phrase at Wimbledon. Much like on rainy days, an invasion of pigeons was a legitimate reason for downing rackets. The pesky birds particularly like nesting in the roof at centre court. Since 2000, Avian Environmental Consultants Ltd, based in Corby, Northamptonshire, has provided hawks to help chase birds away at Wimbledon – and they’re doing an excellent job of it.

Harris Hawk (Parabuteounicinctus) formerly known as the Bay-winged Hawk or Dusky Hawk, is a medium-large bird of prey which breeds from the southwestern United States south to Chile and central Argentina. They search for their mammal, bird, and reptilian prey from a perch or as they are flying.  Harris’ Hawks are social birds. Some of the young will stay with the family unit up to 3 years and help raise subsequent broods and hunt cooperatively with the family. Harris' Hawks are popular birds used in the sport of falconry because of their group hunting style.  Rufus, the popular, is a Harris hawk, used for keeping pigeons at bay during Wimbledon fortnight.  It is  the bird  used to patrol the Court to deter pigeons, handler being Imogen.

The hawk Rufus  has been a regular feature at The All England Club since 2007 – when he took over from the previous hawk, Hamish. He scares birds away from the courts during the Wimbledon Championships.  The American Harris hawk regularly poses for pictures with fans – as well as celebrities including Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. He has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter as well as his own Facebook page – and was the star of Stella Artois’ series of adverts Here’s To Perfection. Rufus even has his own photo security pass – with his official job title, Bird Scarer – and he doesn’t only work during the world-famous tennis tournament. Rufus visits the venue most weeks throughout the year, to discourage birds from roosting in the 42-acre grounds.

During the main competition, he is flown before the gates open – from 5am to 10am – to scare away birds. While Rufus also played a key role at Wimbledon in the London 2012 Olympics and has previously visited Westminster Abbey, various hospitals and airfields.

Rufus was memorably kidnapped back in June 2012 – triggering a global outcry. The bird was stolen from the back of Imogen’s car, which was parked in a private driveway in Dunstall Road, Wimbledon. He was found safe and well, bar a slightly sore leg, three days later – after being spotted on Wimbledon Common by a member of the public. The hawk was handed into the RSPCA in neighbouring Putney, and soon reunited with his concerned owner. He was back at work the following morning.

So on 2nd July ~ Wimbledon 2018 is to start

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st July 2018.




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