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Friday, June 19, 1998 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK


In Wimbledon v World Cup the score is Love All

Pele presents the French Open trophy to Carlos Moya

By Tennis Correspondent Barry Millns

Eight years ago, before the days of Henmania, the biggest cheer to be heard at Wimbledon was not for a tennis match. One evening, as the last spectators were leaving, a huge roar suddenly erupted around Centre Court, rocking its very foundations.

The cause? David Platt's stunning extra-time winner for England against Belgium. From the members enclosure to the press room, from the groundstaff rest area to the players lounge, every available television and radio, it seemed, was tuned into that match in Bologna. No doubt there will be similar outburst during France '98.

Football and tennis may not be the most natural partners. But when England's exciting Euro '96 campaign semi-finally faltered against Germany, Tim Henman carried on the national momentum with his first run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Goalkeeper David Seamen was just one of a number of England internationals who came to watch.

To cement the relationship still further, Pele was on hand earlier this month to crown Carlos Moya as French Open champion. To the Spaniard's delight - and the crowd's - the football legend also headed a ball with him and runner-up Alex Corretja during the presentation. "I was very happy that the greatest player ever gave me the trophy," Moya said afterwards. "I think it was extra motivation because I knew he was going to give it to the winner."

All the Spanish players are passionate about the beautiful game. They play a great deal of it together back at base in Barcelona and are often to be seen kicking and heading tennis balls over the net in practice.

With France '98 now in full swing, all the pre-Wimbledon tournaments have been buzzing with talk of the World Cup, especially during the rain delays. At the women's tournament in Edgbaston a players' sweep was started and for French No 2 Nathalie Tauziat, whose cousin Didier Dechamps plays in midfield for the national team, getting through her matches in time to support those back home was a big incentive.

At Eastbourne young American sensation Serena Williams, who loves to shop with elder sister Venus when they are not bashing tennis balls, revealed her backing for Brazil as well as the USA. "I have three Brazil T-shirts with the World Cup on the back. I'm really supporting them. I hope they win."

Some even take to wearing their hearts on their sleeves when competing - most notably Brazilian Gustavo Kuerton who played in bright yellow shirts on his way to winning and then defending the French Open title. But the predominantly white clothing rule means we won't see such displays at Wimbledon. If you think Pete Sampras might just run around in red, white and blue should he win the title for a fifth time, think again.

"I am not a big football fan. I have a hard time watching it and appreciating it," said the world No 1 at London's Queen's club. "In the States no one really follows it but here it is everywhere, so I have to watch it like it or not. I saw Scotland play Brazil because it was on every channel and when a goal is scored the whole building starts to shake."

Sounds familiar.



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In this section

Anyone for tennis?

Great moments in love

Return to Henmania?

Wimbledon's green and pleasant land

Ladies win less at Wimbledon

In Wimbledon v World Cup the score is Love All

Women's fashion hits the courts

Racket science and the hard sell

Net calls from Wimbledon