Rufus, the anti-pigeon machine, gets a Wimbledon apprentice

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Rufus, the famed hawk which has patrolled the skies and surrounds of the All England Club for nearly a decade, has been joined at this edition of the Wimbledon Championships by Pollux, his avian apprentice.

The pair of hunters are unleashed between 5 am and 9 am each day to wreak havoc on any common pigeon brave enough to venture near the venue during the Championships fortnight hoping for a free feed on the delicious grass seed which litters the courts.

The owner and handler for the birds of prey, Imogen Davies, told local media that the tag-team approach shows up the difference between the flying style of the cagey veteran and the 2-year-old learner.

“Rufus likes to weave in and out of the girders while Pollux likes to get a lot of height, which is a bit more unusual for a Harris hawk,’’ she said.

“Pollux is quite often soaring above Centre Court and Court Number One on a higher patrol seeing what’s about.’’

Rufus has been leading by example in the world of television, where he has been a familiar face during the tennis, appearing frequently on BBC news crosses with his handler.

The old pro has learned not to perch on camera booms, while Pollux is still unsure of his landing points when the TV lights are on. “Pollux came and did a few flights but he wasn’t quite ready for the television,’’ Davies said.

Rufus is well-known for having his own Wimbledon accreditation badge. During the remainder of the year, he also works the grounds at Northampton Saints rugby ground, Fulham Football Club and Westminster Abbey.

He also makes weekly patrols year-round at the club.

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Federer fascinated by upcoming long-odds outsider opponent

London — Roger Federer, tipped as the best to ever play the sport, is fascinated by his Wednesday opponent at the Wimbledon Championships after reaching the second round.

The 17-time grand slam champion is keen to face number 772 Brit Marcus Willis, who entered pre-qualifying on a lark and had to win six matches to even reach the first round.

The 25-year-old rank outsider then achieved a miracle by beating Richard Berankis in the first round, setting up the historic – for him – date with Federer.

“It’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport, other than Djokovic winning slams, Rafa doing a good comeback, and Murray playing great,’’ Federer said after advancing over Guido Pella in the first round.

“I think it’s a great, great story; I’m very excited to be playing him actually. It’s not something that I get to do very often.’’

The 34-year-old, who is bidding for an eighth trophy at the All England Club, remains pleasantly amazed at what 45-dollar-an-hour coach Willis has so far achieved.

“You usually give wild cards to guys who are truly professionals, not usually ones doing coaching. This match has picked up momentum. People will hear about it. People will know about it.

“Naturally they’re going to support him – rightfully so, because it’s a very cool story myself. It’s going to make the match difficult. I saw him play today, he plays well. He is serve and volleying, which I love to see.’’ (dpa/NAN)

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