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Wimbledon veteran Wendy on Murray's comeback, first day nerves and strawberries and cream

Stowmarket's Wendy Smith in her Wimbledon uniform Picture: ARCHANT

Stowmarket's Wendy Smith in her Wimbledon uniform Picture: ARCHANT

If you're watching Wimbledon this year, look out for Suffolk's Wendy Smith - who has been officiating at the tennis tournament since 1982.

The florist is taking a two-week break from her day job to officiate at Wimbledon Picture: ARCHANTThe florist is taking a two-week break from her day job to officiate at Wimbledon Picture: ARCHANT

For nearly 40 years Wendy, who lives near Stowmarket, has been making the trip down to the famous ground - leaving her business W & M Florist Supplies in Middlewood Green in the hands of fellow staff members.

Yet even after all those summers, Wendy admits she still has those first morning nerves.

This year, she predicts a men's singles win for Federer, Djokovic or Nadal - but says the women's field is far harder to call.

"I still get that buzz, even after all this time," she said as she arrived in Wimbledon last night.

Line judge Wendy is hoping for a dry Wimbledon this year Picture: WENDY SMITHLine judge Wendy is hoping for a dry Wimbledon this year Picture: WENDY SMITH

"You are always a bit apprehensive on the first night. But as soon as you walk through the gates you get that goosebumps feeling.

"You do get quite nervous on the first morning, but you get a real buzz out of it too.

"We don't know what we're doing until we receive an email saying where we'll be, so it's exciting knowing you'll be doing something different each day."

As the highest grade of line judge, Wendy will be there from when the first ball is served to when the last ball is struck, officiating at anything up to five matches a day.

Wendy says she still gets a buzz when she goes through the gates of Wimbledon each morning Picture: WENDY SMITHWendy says she still gets a buzz when she goes through the gates of Wimbledon each morning Picture: WENDY SMITH

"It can be pretty tiring but I finish each day feeling proud of what I've done so it's all worth it," she said.

"All the forecasts are suggesting it will be a dry Wimbledon, too, which is a bonus as we won't get wet and the turnout should be excellent.

"I haven't had my first strawberries and cream yet but I'm very much looking forward to it. It's all part of the fun."

A keen tennis player who played for Suffolk at junior level, Wendy applied for an umpiring role after she went to see the Benson & Hedges Championship at Wembley Arena in 1979.

The 2019 tournament will be Wendy's 37th consecutive year at Wimbledon Picture: WENDY SMITHThe 2019 tournament will be Wendy's 37th consecutive year at Wimbledon Picture: WENDY SMITH

There, she spotted an Professional Tennis Umpires Federation (PTUF) advert encouraging people to sign up.

Now, 37 years on, she said the field is far harder to break into - and feels her experience has kept her in the role.

"It is much harder now and people have to go through rigorous training regimes.

"I've seen some amazing things in my time - I was lucky enough to be on the line when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013, and in 2012 I was selected to be a line judge at both the Olympics and Paralympics, something I don't think will ever happen again, so I'm very grateful."

'It got quite emotional' - Historic 2013 Murray win was career highlight

Wendy says Andy Murray winning Wimbledon back in 2013 was the "pinnacle" of her long career.

"It was definitely a career highlight," she said.

"To be there when a Brit wins it, to be on the court, was quite emotional.

"We all got a bit choked - it was such a momentous occasion."

'Federer might make it over the line' - Wendy's first-day Wimbledon predictions

"For me this year I think it's very much the same old favourites," said Wendy.

"Djokovich has got a good chance, so has Nadal, and maybe Federer if he gets through the early rounds.

"When it comes to the women it's going to be much harder to predict, it's a pretty open field.

"I'd like to see how much Ashleigh Barty has progressed, I haven't been on the court when she's played for a while."

"It will also be good to see Murray back where he belongs."

- Wimbledon starts from 11am on Monday, July 1 and lasts until Monday, July 14.

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