UK tennis fans court tradition for Nadal club match

Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:54am EDT
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By Catherine Bosley

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Smartly dressed spectators crowded around the main court at London's Hurlingham club, sipping champagne and eating cucumber sandwiches, to watch world no. 1 Rafael Nadal and other players warm up for Wimbledon.

Each year the century-old private club, which sits on acres of manicured lawns in west London, hosts grass court exhibition matches for top professional players and a tournament for former champions like Greg Rusedski and Pat Cash.

Several men watching Australian Lleyton Hewitt trounce current Wimbledon champion Nadal 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday wore flowers in their lapels, while some women donned oversized sunglasses and large-brimmed hats despite the intermittently cloudy weather.

"This is so old school Britain - everyone's with their Pimm's and they're having tea - it's quite quaint," said Sophie, 22, standing on a sidewalk edged with roses.

Nadal is scheduled to play another match on Friday, though his participation at Wimbledon next week remains unclear due to a knee injury.

"As much as I believed Nadal would win, Hewitt had the edge. It was an amazing match," said spectator Nadia Deadman, as she surveyed a group of women in floral dresses.

Waiters in uniforms balanced silver trays, and on a nearby sign, the club proposed a dinner menu of lobster and wild boar with apple sauce, followed by strawberries and cream.

FUN AND SCARY   Continued...

<p>Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts between games against Australia's Lleyton Hewitt during the Tennis Classic at Hurlingham tournament in west London June 18, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>