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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: June 17, 2009

6/17/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

June 17, 2009

As I pack for my very first trip to the All England Club I'm suddenly gripped with terror. What will I wear? Where will I go? What if I don't bow properly when meeting the Queen (I assume she's a big Nadal fan). I need some expert advice, and STAT. Fortunately I have a fairy godmother in doubles champ Corina Morariu. She took time from taking over Tennis Channel to give me the Do's And Don'ts of Wimbledon.

Okay, clothes first. What am I wearing, and what am I leaving in my closet?

Corina: Don't wear a hat. No big wide-brimmed hats. And don't wear all white. That's for the players. That rule doesn't apply to spectators. Sometimes you see people that think they might end up playing somehow. And you're not going to be. Wear normal clothes.

Lindsay Davenport and
Corina Morariu celebrating
their '99 Wimbledon victory.

I'm a pig. What's the first thing I have to stuff my face with when I get there?

Strawberries and cream. Or a scone with clotted cream with afternoon tea.

Let me ask you. I've never had strawberries and cream before and it sounds like it's hard to screw up, but is it just one of those things everybody has when they're there or do you actually like it?

I do the strawberries without the cream because I'm a little more health conscious. In my playing days I didn’t think heavy cream was the way to go before a match. But I think if you're there you gotta do it the right way and you gotta go for the cream. It's good, I've tried it.

Now that you're on camera, you have to be...

I have to watch my figure.

Nothing but fruit for Corina.

(laughs) Right, exactly.

Who's the most important person to suck up to while I'm there?

For the players, it's the ladies at the desk with the badges and the tickets. Wimbledon's the toughest of all the Grand Slams to get people into. The players suck up to the women at the desk like it's nobody's business.

Okay, so I've got my ticket, I'm in the stands. I'm a little worried because, at Wimbledon, it's all very refined. I am not. What can I shout and what shouldn't I shout from the stands?

(laughs) They are pretty proper. Anything encouraging and supportive is fine. Polite applause is acceptable.

So a little different from the crowds in Paris maybe.

The crowds in Paris are rough. They're brutal. They don’t give you any leeway.

So don’t be brutal.

(laughs) Yeah, don't be brutal. Do not berate the players.

Where's the coolest place I can go with my credential?

I'm not sure if this is still the case [after the remodel] but upstairs in the players restaurant. You're overlooking Court 2 and you have a great view of a lot of the courts. Court 3, Court 4... It would have to not be raining.

And it's going to rain. Which brings me to my next question. When it starts to pour, what's the best place to go and where do I want to avoid like the plague?

Go to any players' area to avoid the masses. (laughs) It's a class society. You want to use the badge to your benefit. Avoid any public area.

Is there one public area that's just like, oh my god--

I can't tell you because I've never been to a public area during a rain delay.

(laughs) This is what happens when you talk to a Wimbledon champion. "What? Public..?"

"What do you mean? I don’t know..." (laughs) I think I've gotten stuck on my way from a court. It's super crowded because everyone's battling for shelter.

I remember in Paris it started to rain and everyone packed into the corridor beside Chatrier. The smell was so bad, it was just wet everybody. It was rough.

That's when you whip out your badge. Run for cover.

To where the players get their mani-pedis and their massages and wait for it to get dry.

The hair salon.

I'm staying in Wimbledon Village. Any tips?

Wimbledon Village is the best. Starbucks is critical. One of the best Indian restaurants I've been to is there, called Rajdoot. You have to go there. The San Lorenzo is a great Italian place. It's a must as well. Wimbledon Village is quaint and casual. If you go out to dinner on any given night, or you go to Starbucks, you're bound to run into no less than five players.

You'll avoid cream as a player but a trip to Starbucks is fine.

A trip to Starbucks is fine, yes. No whip cream on the drink!

Just mainline that caffeine.

Exactly. For the players it's less about the caffeine and more about a taste of home I think.

That middle Sunday. Where do the cool kids hang out?

In their flat or their house. They're not going anywhere. That's the best part about that Sunday, you're just 'shut it down.' But if you're there for fun, you get on the tube and go to London.

Players aren’t there for fun is what you're saying.

Players are going to be shutting it down on middle Sunday. Practice when you want, have a relaxing day, maybe walk around the village if you feel like doing something. That's pretty much the extent of it.

What's been your biggest faux pas at Wimbledon? Something I should maybe be on my best behavior to avoid?

I don't know about a faux pas, but my most embarrassing moment on the court came at Wimbledon.

Uh oh, do you want to talk about it..?

I was playing Lindsay [Davenport] first round after we won in '99. We had to play each other first round in 2000 and she was defending champion. We played Tues at 2 o'clock on Centre Court, and the court is really slick because it's not practiced on. She won the first set 6-3 and we're early in the second set. I went to change direction and I totally lost my footing. I did a full split, fell on my arm and bounced back. I was writhing on the ground in pain. My first thought when I hit the ground was you better get up really quickly because, unless there's something seriously wrong with you, you're going to look like a total wimp right now. Yeah, broke my arm on Centre Court. We had to pull out of doubles. But the worst part of it was having to watch my fall being replayed on the highlight show that night over and over, me doing a split in a tennis skirt in slow motion.

So maybe the lesson is, don't change direction on the grass when it's slick.

(laughs) Exactly. Avoid that.

And if you're in a tennis skirt. So I'll leave my tennis skirt at home.

Leave your skirt at home. File that one under what not to wear.

Thanks to Corina for her most excellent advice. Now I can just keep my eyes peeled on the action, and maybe even watch some tennis. Check back Monday for Day 1 coverage of The Championships Wimbledon. Will Rafa defend? Will Roger break Pete's record? Can Andy Murray take the hometown heat? Will Venus and Serena let anyone else play on Championship Sunday? Will Dunlop get his shame stick past customs?

See you Monday!