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From barricades to bomb-sniffing dogs, Wimbledon ups its security

There will be an increased security presence over the next two weeks at Wimbledon, including concrete barricades and bomb-sniffing dogs. EPA Photo

LONDON -- Security protocol is nothing new at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, but there will be heightened safety measures taken at Wimbledon over the next fortnight in light of the recent string of attacks in the United Kingdom.

In Wimbledon Park, where there is usually a festival-like atmosphere as camping fans queue overnight, there will be a surrounding wall of waist-high concrete barriers.

And with the threat of drive-up attacks still fresh in people's minds after the Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Finsbury Park atrocities, there will also be checkpoints in the roads surrounding the AELTC.

"It is just more [security] every year," Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis recently told ESPN in the lead-up to the Grand Slam event.

Metropolitan Police said over the past week there is no specific threat to The Championships, but police presence will be more visible. Armed officers, whom the public saw for the first time inside the Wimbledon gates last year, will be patrolling in and around the grounds. Extensive bag checks, fan searches, bomb-sniffing dogs and plainclothes officers will be further parts of the counterterrorism effort.

"It's good to have a lot," world No. 1 Angelique Kerber told reporters on Saturday. "There is much more [security] than the years before. I'm feeling safe. They are really [taking] this job very seriously."

Metropolitan Police would not divulge official numbers to ESPN but said through a spokesperson that it was deploying a "significant number of resources to support the [AELTC] to deliver a really safe, secure competition this year."

Last year's security at Wimbledon was obvious to all. The national terror threat level was "severe" at that point, defining that an attack was highly likely. The danger is now again at that second-highest level after briefly being raised to "critical" earlier in the year.

The British public, particularly in London, has faced many terror threats in the country's history and has taken a defiant stance after this year's attacks. Many major sporting events, including the FA Cup final, Champions League final and the ICC Champions Trophy in cricket, have taken place throughout the United Kingdom without incident or affected attendances since the bomb blast following an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in late May.

"For us in France, it's the same," world No. 16 Gael Monfils said at this past week's Eastbourne tuneup tournament. "We had quite a lot [of terrorist attacks]. One in Nice, you know -- I was there just a couple of days before. [The threat] is always there.

"I have a lot of friends that perform, artists, and all the time we talk about [the terror threat], because for sure we have this in mind. It can happen; we need to live with that. The main thing is to not show any fear."

Players inside the All England Club have consistently received a high level of protection, with security staff overseeing their entrances and accompanying them around public areas. They also have access to a network of underground tunnels between many of the courts, adding another safety layer.

Wimbledon reported an operating profit of £42 million (just over $55 million U.S.) in the past year and pays for more protection than advised by security forces including the Metropolitan Police. It has tried to learn from previous terrorist atrocities and increased its initial, extensive security plan after the recent attacks.

"It's very understandable, and it's expected after devastating events," Novak Djokovic said last week from the Aegon International at Eastbourne. "The security levels in Grand Slams in general, especially the last few years, are very high.

"The walk from the Centre Court to Aorangi Park, where we usually train, you have a choice whether you go underground or go between the people. Sometimes it's nice just to go between the crowds. It lifts you up, gives you good energy and a good vibe."

Rafael Nadal, another major contender at Wimbledon, said the recent attacks could cast a cloud over the national mood, but his response was one that may well be shared by the tennis public and the Wimbledon queue.

"We cannot stop; life continues," the Spaniard said. "We need to keep going through [our] normal life. If not, I think you are in bigger trouble."