Tour­na­ment trig­gers hot com­pe­ti­tion in shops

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — No­vak Do­govic and Andy Pur­ray could end up among the win­ners in Wim­ble­don this year.

Car­i­ca­tures of the two Grand Slam cham­pi­ons — or, at least, their half-hu­man, half-an­i­mal coun­ter­parts — are hang­ing in the win­dow at Pet Pavil­ion, a groom­ing sa­lon in the vil­lage of Wim­ble­don, within walk­ing dis­tance of the All Eng­land Club.

The pre­sen­ta­tion is one of sev­eral dozen on dis­play through­out the vil­lage, which cre­ated a com­pe­ti­tion for busi­nesses three years ago.

From bak­eries to beauty sa­lons, cloth­ing stores to cof­fee shops, ten­nis balls, rack­ets and more can be seen in at least 63 store­fronts by any­one tak­ing a stroll along the neigh­bor­hood streets.

“They’re show­ing the fans that they’re sup­port­ive,” said Elena Ves­nina, a Rus­sian player. “It doesn’t mat­ter if they sup­port you or not — they’re go­ing to watch ten­nis.”

Plan­ning for this year’s dis- play be­gan in March at Pet Pavil­ion. The shop’s own­ers, long­time ten­nis fans, won the com­pe­ti­tion two years ago with a dis­play that fea­tured plas­ter dogs play­ing a match.

This year, their idea was to com­mis­sion por­traits of a num­ber of cur­rent and for­mer Wim­ble­don greats. With the help of an em­ployee, Sarune Kalin­i­naite, who cre­ated the art, they hope Bjorn Bark, Jimmy Pawn­nors and oth­ers make for a purr-fect dis­play.

“We try to do things that will at­tract peo­ple to this great area — not just to our store, but to our vil­lage,” said Alex Sav­ille-Edells, son of the store’s founders. “We want peo­ple to walk around and ex­pe­ri­ence what the vil­lage has to of­fer.”

Ten judges score each win­dow, award­ing points for theme and cre­ativ­ity. They have also been asked to con­sider how the dis­play re­lates to each busi­ness.

A shop that sells Ar­gen­tine em­panadas, Chango, mixed pho­tos of Guillermo Vi­las and other greats from the South Amer­i­can coun­try in among ham hocks, gar­lic cloves and bot­tles of mal­bec.

The dis­play at the Wim­ble­don Vil­lage Os­teopath of­fice in­cludes a skele­ton at­tempt­ing a dive vol­ley.

Sweaty Betty, a women’s ac­tivewear shop, dumped roughly 200 balls in its front dis­play, and Hem­ing­way’s, a cocktail bar, painted bunches of grapes on its glass — with the grapes them­selves re­placed by balls. Some are more elab­o­rate. Last year’s win­ner, Thai Tho, wrapped the en­tire front of the restau­rant — in­clud­ing a minia­ture ele­phant — in fake turf.

“My wife said, ‘Let’s cover the en­tire restau­rant in ar­ti­fi­cial grass,’ ” said owner Adrian Mills. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”

Kim­ber­ley Sal­mas­sian, who used to run a fash­ion bou­tique in the vil­lage, over­sees the con­test. Although shop own­ers oc­ca­sion­ally dressed up their win­dows to ap­peal to ten­nis fans, she thought a united ef­fort would be more at­trac­tive to vis­i­tors.

Slazenger and Babo­lat have do­nated equip­ment for use in the displays — Sal­mas­sian es­ti­mated she now has about 1,000 ten­nis balls for shops to use — but own­ers are free to spend at will in or­der to adorn their win­dows.

Two years ago, the con­test re­ceived a boost when the All Eng­land Club said it had no prob­lem with shop own­ers us­ing the Wim­ble­don logo and col­ors as part of their displays.

It also started do­nat­ing two tick­ets to Cen­tre Court for the women’s semi­fi­nals, which have been given away as the grand prize.

Anne Shelmer­dine, who lives across the street from the club, has been a fan of Wim­ble­don since she was a child. Be­fore the win­dow com­pe­ti­tion be­gan, she used to get ex­cited when the coun­cil would put pur­ple and green bags in the pub­lic garbage cans, know­ing it meant the tour­na­ment was com­ing.

On Fri­day, she walked her dogs, a pair of Ti­betan spaniels, through the vil­lage just to ad­mire the displays.

“Peo­ple who don’t even like ten­nis are like, ‘I like the buzz. It’s so ex­cit­ing,’ ” Shelmer­dine said. “This place comes alive.”

Play­ers have taken note. Many of them rent houses in and around the vil­lage dur­ing the tour­na­ment and will ven­ture into shops and restau­rants through­out the two weeks of the tour­na­ment.

TIM IRE­LAND / AP

A car­i­ca­ture of Andy Mur­ray

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