The veteran singer raised the roof, says his friend, former British tennis ace Annabel Croft.
I remember the day was awful: just continuous rain. Wimbledon crowds have always been quite animated when it comes to the weather, particularly in the days before the retractable roof was built. They booed when the covers went on and cheered when they came off. But on that day, at the men’s quarter-finals, it was getting very frustrating and nothing was happening.
I’ve sat with Sir Cliff Richard in the stands a few times at Wimbledon because we’re both members of the club, which gets you a seat at Centre Court. I always enjoy his company because he knows his tennis very well and I used to play in the fundraising tennis matches he’d put on. He’s a good tennis player – he can really hit the ball!
Knowing him, I can imagine him thinking, ‘What can I do to help this situation? How can I make this positive for the poor people who are so bored?’ He was doing an interview with Radio Wimbledon in the royal box when he was asked to sing by the club secretary (whose wife had suggested the idea). He started with ‘Summer Holiday’, saying to the crowd, ‘I never thought I’d actually play on Centre Court’.
Cliff performed six songs for a total of 20 minutes to an audience that included Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Joanna Lumley. His set included a version of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, backed by tennis stars such as Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. ‘How could anyone have ever dreamed up a backing group like this?’ he said to a huge round of applause. And as he launched into ‘Congratulations’, with the crowd clapping to every beat, the covers were rolled back and play was restored.
It was an extraordinary moment in the history of Wimbledon – he was a real hit and a bit of a saviour that day. This year I’ll be commentating again for the BBC and I’m hoping to see Cliff there, too.
Also that month…
- Alan Shearer became the world’s most expensive footballer when Newcastle United bought him from Blackburn Rovers for £15 million.
- Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal from an adult cell, was born in Scotland.
- The Spice Girls released their debut single, ‘Wannabe’.