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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Football fever at Wimbledon
By Mark Orlovac
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Fans bask in the sunshine at Wimbledon on Saturday
None of the big screens were showing the football at Wimbledon

Despite the best efforts of the All England Club, the World Cup in Germany was always going to be high on the agenda at Wimbledon on middle Saturday.

Although there was a star-studded Centre Court line-up of Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, there were plenty of people whose thoughts were with England and the quarter-final clash with Portugal.

And the announcement from the All England Club during the week that there would be nowhere to watch the game inside the grounds presented the SW19 crowd with a difficult dilemma.

Should they stick around to watch the action at one of the summer's premium sporting events, or should they sneak off to one of the pubs to watch Sven-Goran Eriksson's men do battle in Germany?

And for some gathering inside Centre Court proudly wearing their England shirts, there was no way their prized Wimbledon ticket would be surrendered.

"We have got a hand-held telly in the bag but obviously it will be on silent as I don't want to upset anyone," said Jason Kent, 33, from Wiltshire.

I have left the wife watching the tennis and I'm going to watch the football

Terry Offer, from Bristol

"It's Wimbledon, and if you have Centre Court tickets for a day like today you are not going to jeopardise that. These tickets are like gold dust."

"I will be staying here to watch the tennis," said 16-year-old Will Gibson from Portsmouth.

"My dad is sitting behind me with a radio so he can keep me up to date with the scores. We did think about going out to watch the football but it is quite awkward to go out of the grounds and come back in again."

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I am going to stay," said Darren Wood, a 42-year-old sales manager from Lincolnshire.

"If it was the World Cup final it would be different but if England go through I have lost nothing. I do not want to miss Sharapova. You wait a year for these tickets."

But not everyone felt the same and a group of 15-year-old lads from Dorset had no such plans to stay in the arena.

"We will be watching the game, we'll probably go down the pub. It was a hard decision to make but it's all about priorities," said Brad Kendrick.

There was no way I was going to miss the game

Londoner James Tilley

And sure enough, with around half an hour to go before kick-off, there was a steady stream of people walking out briskly to find a place to watch the game.

And that was despite crowd favourite Agassi coming to the end of what would be his final Wimbledon match against Rafael Nadal.

"I have to go as they are not showing it inside," said 42-year-old Terry Offer from Bristol. "I have left the wife watching the tennis on Court Number one.

"It only happens once every four years and I just wanted to get the atmosphere but if I had Centre Court tickets that would be different."

"There was no way I was going to miss the game. We are going to Putney to a friend's house and then we will come back," said James Tilley, 29, from London.

The flow of people leaving the grounds did not seem to make a big difference to the crowds inside however, with Henman Hill and the concourses as bustling as ever.

As promised, the blinds at the press centre were pulled down to protect the numerous televisions from prying eyes but a small group did manage to get the smallest of views through an unshielded door panel.

Back at Centre Court, there were plenty of green seats available and numerous hand-held tellies and portable radios in evidence when 2004 women's champion Maria Sharapova began her match just after kick-off in Germany.

Andy Murray celebrates winning a point against Andy Roddick
Murray kept the Centre Court fans enthralled through the football

And World Cup-winning England rugby union coach Sir Clive Woodward cut a lonely figure in the Royal Box as his highly-esteemed colleagues looked to have joined the exodus.

With two big men's games on Centre Court, a lull for Sharapova was expected but the fans returned as Murray started his contest with Roddick - even with England's quarter-final going into extra-time.

And it seemed ironic that the young Scot, who angered England fans with his comment that he would like "anyone but England to win", would be taking the first set to a tie-break just as Sven-Goran Eriksson's men were locked in another penalty shoot-out.

With the drama reaching its climax in Germany, news of every heart-stopping penalty success or miss was relayed around the arena in a flash, and at one stage the disturbance briefly stopped Murray from winding up for a serve.

England's inevitable penalty defeat caused a brief ripple but the fans, maybe in a bid to forget the pain of the quarter-final exit, quickly turned their full attention to Murray and his bid for a place in the fourth round.

He eased British pain by claiming the first set and then stunning Roddick with a straight-sets victory to leave the crowd forgetting about the World Cup completely as they headed for the exits.

And for the All England Club, that must have been quite a relief.



SEE ALSO
England beaten on penalties again
01 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Brilliant Murray shocks Roddick
01 Jul 06 |  Tennis
Sharapova outguns brave Frazier
01 Jul 06 |  Tennis


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