Tennis stars walk the red carpet

Braintree and Witham Times: Maria Sharapova is picked up by racing driver Mark Webber  and driven to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) pre-Wimbledon party Maria Sharapova is picked up by racing driver Mark Webber and driven to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) pre-Wimbledon party

The tennis world's female stars have walked the red carpet for one last party before Wimbledon swings into action - with Maria Sharapova dressed in the tournament's traditional white.

The French Open champion arrived at the event in style, in a Porsche driven by Australian racing driver Mark Webber.

Speaking at the Women's Tennis Association party at the Roof Gardens in Kensington, west London, Sharapova said: "It's definitely the entrance you want to have to a players' party."

The tennis star, dressed in a short white dress, said Wimbledon has a "very special" feel to it. "It's a beautiful venue. There's so much tradition and around the town there's so much excitement in the lead up to such a big tournament.

"It's a big draw with so many players competing and it's over two weeks so it's just nice to see all the fans follow their favourites and cheer for them.

"The environment is very special when you walk out on to the court," she said at last night's event.

Having just won the French Open, the Russian player said she was "so happy", adding: "It's such a quick turnaround between the French Open and Wimbledon, and you just hope that you recover both mentally and physically, because it was a very physical Grand Slam for me.

"I always look forward to Wimbledon, so no matter how I did in Paris you have to turn the page quite quickly and get ready and spend as many hours as you can on the grass."

Venus Williams arrived at the party in a sequinned green dress and said there was no rivalry between her and her sister Serena.

"I'm so happy to see her win," she said, adding: "Hopefully one of us can win again."

Also at the party were Ana Ivanovic and Britain's own Laura Robson, who is ruled out of Wimbledon due to injury.

Britain's tennis hero Andy Murray will be hoping to land another title in SW19 following his historic victory last summer against Novak Djokovic.

Having ended the wait for a British male singles champion at Wimbledon after 77 years, Murray will try to emulate Fred Perry once more by retaining the title.

A number of celebrities were also at the party, which was under way at the same time as the England team were being beaten by Uruguay at the World Cup.

Murray mania is likely to ripple through Wimbledon once again this year as tennis fans join the famous queue to watch the Scot in action.

Murray, who was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list in December 2012, has an Olympic gold medal after beating Federer at London 2012 and silverware from the US Open after beating Djokovic in the same year.

The British number one parted company with his coach Ivan Lendl in March this year and has brought in former Wimbledon women's champion Amelie Mauresmo to replace him, initially on a short-term basis.

It has made him the highest-profile man in the sport to appoint a female coach.

The All England Club will award a total of £25 million in prize money to competitors at the championships.

The gentlemen's and ladies' singles champions will each receive £1.76 million, according to the official website.

The queue for tickets starts at 8am on Sunday.

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