Welcome to… The Last 8 Club at Wimbledon

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Happy Hour inside Wimbledon’s Last Eight Club, and Neale Fraser was holding court about what happened after he won the men’s singles in 1960.

At 6pm every day during the tournament those eligible to use this exclusive lounge, discreetly tucked away in a corner of the All England Club, gather to swap stories.

The oldest visitor so far this fortnight has been 90 year-old Australian Fraser. He recalled how his prize 63 years ago was a £15 voucher to be spent at Lilywhite’s sports emporium, up in central London.

Having played in the Saturday final he went there the next morning, only to find it closed. The return journey, including taxis, cost him £17 and left him in deficit for winning the world’s most famous tournament.

Former British player John Feaver, who played thirteen consecutive Championships, has heard many such colourful anecdotes since taking over the running of what has quietly become a Wimbledon institution.

Former British tennis player, Jon Feaver, pictured outside the Last Eight Club on Wednesday

Former British tennis player, Jon Feaver, pictured outside the Last Eight Club on Wednesday

Neale Fraser (left), the 90-year-old Australian, is the oldest member to visit over the last fortnight

Neale Fraser (left), the 90-year-old Australian, is the oldest member to visit over the last fortnight

The profile has been raised after Chris Eubanks expressed his delight at becoming a member

The profile has been raised after Chris Eubanks expressed his delight at becoming a member

He oversees the hospitality space which was once the Club’s boardroom, used for committee meetings. On a wall by the kitchen, still in working order, remains the same old-fashioned doorbell that used to be rung by officials when requiring a liquid refreshment top-up.

The Last Eight has had its profile raised this week after American Chris Eubanks expressed his delight at becoming a member. The entry criteria is simple: you need to have made the singles quarter finals, the doubles semi-finals, or the mixed doubles final.

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Feaver – who once smacked a record 42 aces with a wooden racket past defending champion John Newcombe in a losing cause – tells of its origins, which go back to 1986.

‘The then Chairman, Buzzer Hadingham, came across a couple of older players who were in the queue trying to get tickets, and he didn’t think that was quite right,’ says Feaver, sitting beneath a mural with every members’ name on it. ‘ He wanted to do something for them, because without them the tournament would not be where it is today.

‘Every year there are those that pass away and those that join, and at present we have got 603 who are eligible to come in.’

While that sounds a lot, most members are based overseas and it rarely gets too crowded, especially as the younger ones who visit The Championships tend to be busy working.

The Last Eight has a daily ticket allocation to the show courts, and for the big matches there has to be a ballot. In line with the lighthearted atmosphere which prevails, Feaver conducts it while wearing a hard hat, supposedly to protect him from disappointed customers.

‘Usually we can look after everyone, but they all understand. Most of our regulars are in the older bracket, and this is where they can come for something to eat and drink and meet up with former opponents and partners.

Fraser (left) recalled how his prize for winning Wimbledon 63 years ago was a £15 voucher to be spent at Lilywhite¿s sports emporium

Fraser (left) recalled how his prize for winning Wimbledon 63 years ago was a £15 voucher to be spent at Lilywhite’s sports emporium

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Feaver (pictured in 1977),  once hit a record 42 aces with a wooden racket past then defending champion John Newcombe

Feaver (pictured in 1977),  once hit a record 42 aces with a wooden racket past then defending champion John Newcombe

‘Every day you get to hear great stories, especially during Happy Hour. It is fascinating to learn what people have got up to in the rest of their lives after tennis, those who have done well, perhaps a few for whom it has not gone so well.’

Among those enjoying the hospitality on Wednesday was New Zealander Chris Lewis, a surprise package exactly 40 years ago who, unseeded, met John McEnroe in the 1983 final.

A ridiculously fit-looking 66 due to maintaining a rigorously healthy lifestyle, he is among those who have clearly prospered. Having eventually settled in California, he runs the Brymer Lewis Tennis Academy that has 600 students.

His daughter Geneva is one of the world’s leading young violinists, and he has another trip to London next month, to see her perform as a soloist with the BBC Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in the Proms.

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‘I love coming back to Wimbledon and being part of the Last Eight,’ he said. ‘I can remember the final almost like it was yesterday. The most incredible five minutes was in the small waiting room just with John by the Centre Court just beforehand.

‘Not a word said between us and I was staring at the sign quoting the Kipling poem about meeting with triumph and disaster and treating those two imposters just the same, knowing that everything I had worked for had me to that point.’

Billie Jean King and Sue Barker have been among the other visitors in recent days, and they both attended a dinner for Last Eight members earlier this week.

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Yet not everyone who passes through went on to enjoy the same level of fame as that illustrious duo, or even wanted it.

Another visitor on Wednesday was South African Marise Kruger, chatting with 1974 finalist Olga Morozova. As a 20 year-old Kruger made the 1978 quarter finals, losing to Martina Navratilova.

Current world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz has become one of the club's newest members this year

Current world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz has become one of the club’s newest members this year

Holger Rune, who lost to Alcaraz in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, is also now a member

Holger Rune, who lost to Alcaraz in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, is also now a member

A former world number one junior, she decided the tennis life was not for her, and has gone on to run a successful property business with her husband in the Western Cape.

‘The next year I thought I would try university, I ended up going there and was retired at 21,’ she recalled. ‘The trouble was that everywhere was so far from South Africa and it was easy to get homesick, also there was a long list of countries where I wasn’t allowed to play.

‘Maybe I should have tried for the top ten, but after leaving university I met my husband and started a family, and that was how it worked out.’

Among the new Last Eight members admitted this year will be its two youngest, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune. Many years from now they might be found sitting in the former board room, discussing the time they first met on Centre Court, ringing the bell for another drink.

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