Byline: SHEKHAR BHATIA
A SERIOUS loophole in security at Wimbledon is exposed today.
Evening Standard reporter Bo Wilson spent two weeks undercover as a driver at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, transporting players and coming within feet of some of tennis's biggest names and members of the royal family.
Despite pledges of the tightest security ever, our reporter obtained the job without giving references and by providing a false CV which was never questioned.
Every day, as thousands of spectators queued to be searched for weapons, the official car she was driving was allowed through checkpoints without even a cursory search. Our reporter was also able to obtain access to a series of restricted areas in the club, including the Centre Court, where entry is by ticket only.
She was able to sit opposite the royal box, which this year has also hosted celebrities including Sir Sean Connery, Olympic athlete Sir Steve Redgrave, Chelsea captain John Terry and leading figures from industry.
The security lapses are all the more disturbing as Wimbledon officials and police are concerned about the threat of stalkers at the tournament.
Plainclothes police are deployed in the grounds and staff are supposed to be searched as well as spectators. Wilson was told by police during her training: "Wimbledon is the number one terrorist target in London over those two weeks."
In fact she was able to talk freely to a series of players and mingle with other stars and members of the royal family including Princess Michael of Kent.
She even had her photograph taken with French star Mary Pierce.
Richard Williams - father of Serena and Venus - said today he was horrified by the security lapse.
"That's sick and it's frightening," he said. "I am horrified that this was able to happen. I can't believe it.
"It's shocking that this reporter got away with it, that no one realised her CV
was fake and she wasn't who she said she was. She could have been anyone."
Our reporter was employed by Corniche Events but no one from the company was available for comment.
A Wimbledon spokesman defended its security measures and said the club always took references of people it employed directly.
He said: "We are satisfied that the appropriate security and criminal checks were carried out by the appropriate authorities and that this person posed no threat."
The reporter got a job driving players after staff at Wimbledon contacted the Standard to express their concerns about security.
She applied on the internet for the post with a newly formed company which holds the contract for the courtesy trips to which players are entitled during the tournament.
Corniche Events gave her the job despite never asking for references and being given a deliberately bogus CV.
None of the false information she supplied on the application was questioned during a brief interview.
Our reporter drove freely into the tournament every day without her car ever being checked.
Her wages and uniform are being returned to the company.
BO WILSON'S WIMBLEDON DIARY
IT was simple enough to secure my place as a Wimbledon driver.
The training was barely a challenge either. Shortly before the tournament began, all 290 of us had to undergo a two-day training course on how to ferry the players around.
Rules and regulations were simple.
Aside from obeying the laws of the road, we were told to keep our uniform washed and to smile at the tennis stars.
We were advised not to ask the players if they had "had a good day" as they might have just lost a match.
We were also warned about confidentiality - after signing an agreement not to speak to the press, we were warned against paparazzi hounding us and journalists "doing anything they could" to get the addresses of the players.
None of these things happened.
We also had an hour-long talk from three police officers on security.
Fans were one of the dangers. We were warned they could try to get into the cars to follow their idols. We were also told that stalkers might attempt to follow us to our destinations. But we were not given a list of potential stalkers, nor the pictures of them handed out to other security guards.
But there were no incidents - unless you count an Australian hanging on the fence crying "Lleyton, Lleyton" for two hours and begging players to get his hero Hewitt for him.
There was then a brief discussion of terrorism. Although this year Wimbledon boasts its tightest security ever, it lasted barely a minute.
One officer said: "Wimbledon is the number one terrorist target in London over these two weeks. You are going to be extra police officers - the eyes and ears." He even gave us a hint on how to spot a potential terrorist. "What would you think if you saw a Middle Eastern woman with a large bulge?" he said.
The room was silent until one voice said doubtfully: "That she's pregnant?"
"No," said the officer. "She is a poten-
tial suicide bomber." That was the extent of the security briefing. We then had 15 minutes on the one-way system inWimbledon.
The Stars It was pot luck on who would get into each car but players great and not-so great were all driven. The Ford Galaxies and Mondeos were available to all players, their families and friends, if the player was accompanying them.
I drove French star Mary Pierce, the 30-year-old 12th seed, who flopped exhausted into my car saying, "I'm tired ...and hungry." She was very friendly and allowed me to take our photograph together on my mobile phone, outside
her house in a quiet nearby street. I could have been one of the stalkers we were warned about.
Elena Likhovtseva, the 29-year-old Russian 13th seed, got very cross when I asked her not to jump out into oncoming traffic and refused to give her flat number when I came to collect her.
Andy Roddick, the 22-year-old second seed, waited just feet away from me on two occasions.
Another driver struck lucky when Venus and Serena Williams got into his car. They were in the middle of a discussion about the film Wimbledon.
"It's ridiculous," they said, talking about how unrealistic it was. They discussed the scene on the beach and asked the driver how far it was. He said: "Brighton's about an hour and a half away." "Exactly!" they cried.
VENUS WILLIAMS "It's ridiculous," she said, talking about the film Wimbledon with her sister Serena
champion Roger Federer, who was driven by several people, was liked because of his good manners. When one driver, who did not recognise him, asked him his name, he blinked for a second, before replying politely, "Roger Federer".
NICOLE PRATT "I'm on holiday now," said the Australian after going out of the doubles The Hopefuls For every Wimbledon star, there were dozens of unknowns.
I drove Bulgarians, Russians, Germans, French, Slovakians, Americans, Australians, Swedes, Spanish, Italians, Belgians, Croatians and Romanians, from teenagers to mature players.
South African Natalie Grandin, 24, was the most demonstrative about leaving Wimbledon after losing in the ladies' doubles. She got in, complaining that the staff at the tournament were "unhelpful" but added: "Never mind, it's my last day anyway."
Australian Nicole Pratt, a 32-year-old outsider who also went out in the doubles, said: "I'm on holiday now!" She and her friends catcalled another player as we pulled away.
He smiled and waved. American Lisa Raymond, 31, seeded third in the doubles, and her friend made remarks about the people queueing overnight for tickets.
"That's hysterical," she said.
"Why do they do that?"
She, along with Belgian player Gilles Elseneer, a 27-year-old qualifier, were fascinated by the house prices in the area. "How much?" he asked, pointing to some homes.
"Really?" was his response when I told him most were worth well over a million pounds - and many much more.
The Flirting A young, female driver in a mostly male over-50 workforce was a source of some surprise. Romanian player Andrei Pavel, a married 31-
year-old, produced bottles of water for me and his friends in the back seat and began chatting.
He then ignored his friends, and focused on me, mimicking my words and gestures. Getting no response, he directed his conversation to various topics, including nudity. Asking about the Notting Hill carnival, he said: "Is it crazy?" Hearing that it could be, he said: "How crazy? I mean are people having sex in the street?"
When I said that usually they did not, he added: "Okay but are they naked?
Do they go topless?" As the journey ended, he gave me a dig in ANDREI PAVEL "Is it crazy, do people have sex in the street?"
he asked about the Notting Hill Carnival the ribs as he spied two builders with tops off, saying: "There, they are topless, so women can do it too."
The Parents/Coaches Most memorable was Ivo Karlovic's coach, who pored over a list of players and their scores, while making verbal notes to him.
As Karlovic, a 26-year-old Croatian, sat in the back cuddling his attractive girlfriend, his coach told him to "come on" several times. He said: "You're third in the world with the amount of aces you have scored - so come on!" He compared him to other, more successful players.
Karlovic, who hit 51 aces but still lost his first round match with Daniele Bracciali, said nothing.
Petrova's coach told her to take a holiday while she protested: "I have to work on my fitness." He muttered about officials who were supposedly making demands of her. "The imbeciles," he growled. "You must not be afraid of them." She complained about the "disgusting, tasteless" food at the Championships.
The parents of 27-year-old Australian Paul Hanley, a doubles player, fussed about who would look after him when he went to other European countries. Bulgarian
Sesil Karatancheva - who is only 15 - was completely at ease. She took the front passenger seat and chatted about her difficult name and the unbearably hot weather and sang along to the Bee Gees on the way to practice.
The Residences Not all the players stay in Belgravia and Kensington hotels.
I drove to a variety of houses and flats as far out as Sutton, as well as to smaller hotels in town.
Dutch 21-year-old Dominique van Boekel got off the train with nowhere to stay and met me in a back street dragging her suitcase behind her. "Is it far to the nearest hotel?" she asked.
I did not know any hotels in the area and, becoming flustered, she said: "I've just arrived from France I was playing a tournament."
She settled for a nearby health club - "They know me there" and left her bags, heading for the courts to play. Sleeping arrangements could wait until later.…