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Most Common Questions Answered

Honorary steward David Spearing
by Sarah Edworthy
Thursday 3 July 2014

Who is the man in the hat? This question is aired with such repetitiveness it’s practically a Dr. Seuss story. The mystery man in the distinctive black panama hat, who has occupied seat No.7 in the players’ box for every match on Centre Court in 16 years, is not a statue or General Custer or Captain Birdseye or KFC’s Colonel Sanders (just a few of several theories posed), but David Spearing MBE who has been an Honorary Steward for 40 years.

The nickname “The Man in the Black Hat” was coined by retired Irish broadcaster, Terry Wogan, who asked listeners to identify the figure in the background of all player entourage shots. The hat itself was a spare from the pro shop at The Club in Abu Dhabi, where Spearing lives.

The 79-year-old makes an annual pilgrimage to the Championships to act as official greeter of players’ guests. On warm terms with the likes of Mirka Federer, Kim Sears and Team Djokovic, he is considered to have “the best job in tennis”. Thanks to television cameras obsessively monitoring the emotions of the family and friends in the players’ box, Spearing has acquired cult status. What is the most sought-after souvenir from a visit to The Championships? You guessed it. “A photo with the dude in the hat.”

Can you turn down the screeching/grunting? Understandably, viewers of women's tennis do not like to watch tennis accompanied by the sort of disconcerting shrill sounds emitted by mating foxes. Short of muzzling the high-decibel wailers, there is no means of silencing the top-shriek seeds Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka and their regular back-up band (Michelle Larcher de Brito, Serena Williams, Maria Kirilenko, Sara Errani et al) beyond turning down the volume control on your computer or television or radio/ or headset. Noisy players can be penalised under the “hindrance” rule for potentially distracting an opponent, but this has never happened at Wimbledon.

When will it stop raining? We’d like to know that too when the dark clouds roll in. But, “eventually”, is always the answer. Wimbledon would not be Wimbledon without a run-out for the court coverers, a rush for brollies at the shop and some replays of vintage matches.

Why isn’t Rafa the No.1 seed? Thousands of correspondents sent messages to say how disrespectful it was for the current world No.1 to be seeded below his ATP ranking status. But, ahem, even before the Mallorcan’s untimely exit at the hands of a wildcard ranked 144, club officials pointed to the Men's Seeding Formula that goes as follows: Take ESP points at 16 June 2014. Add 100 percent points earned for all grass court tournaments in past 12 months. Add 75 percent points earned for best grass court tournament in 12 months before that – and ta-da.

I’m coming to the men’s final next week, who’s playing? A Grand Slam singles draw is a knockout competition so we cannot state with certainty who will line up to play for the trophy. Follow the results via wimbledon.com

Why do I have to watch the live games at night? Because you live in New Zealand.

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