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Page last updated at 19:19 GMT, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 20:19 UK

The World Cup gatecrashes Wimbledon

Wimbledon Championships
Venue: All England Club, London Date: 21 June - 4 July
Live on BBC One and Two, HD, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only), Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra; live text commentary online and on mobile phones; watch again on BBC iPlayer Full details of BBC coverage

Henman Hill
Many on Henman Hill followed the England match through their mobile phones

By David Ornstein
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Wimbledon may have declared itself a football-free zone during England's all-or-nothing World Cup match against Slovenia, but that failed to prevent many at SW19 keeping abreast of proceedings in Port Elizabeth.

With a scattering of England shirts visible from the moment the All England Club gates opened on Wednesday morning, it was clear that - for one day, at least - minds were not solely focused on the tennis.

"I've got two Centre Court tickets and one ground pass, so during the game my wife and daughter will take the Centre Court tickets and I'll go and find a pub to watch the football," Roger Lacey from Yeovil told BBC Sport.

"After the game my wife and I will swap over, so I'll watch the Centre Court action with my daughter and she'll take the ground pass."

As the 1500 BST kick-off approached you could feel a sense of anticipation around Wimbledon and a number of players - including British number one Andy Murray and doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski - requested practice court slots that would enable them to watch the football.


Murray headed back to his Surrey home to catch the action, while Fleming, Skupski and Britain's number one doubles player Ross Hutchins joined several other players in front of a television in the men's locker room.

But ordinary ticket holders were not so fortunate as All England Club officials refused to show the game on any of their big screens and ruled out making any kind of announcement via the public address system.

"I want to try and find a place where I can follow it and somehow get some information because at the minute I've got nothing," said Steve Pelly from Newcastle shortly before kick-off.

"Just one screen somewhere or a couple of announcements would suffice. There are lots of people here keen to know what's happening, it's a real shame. I've left my phone at home so I'll just have to follow it by word of mouth."

Not all agreed. "We're here for the tennis so they've got every right to ban the football. If they showed it people would crowd around and watch that rather than the tennis," said Malcolm from Croydon.

By the time play got under way in South Africa there were precious few England shirts to be seen around Wimbledon, but attendance figures remained around the usual 40,000 mark.

"I came down today thinking that because England were playing football it would be easy to get a ticket on the door," explained Aslam Jamadar of Hounslow.

I brought my radio and intended to listen to the England match in my seat but I can't get a signal on Centre Court, so had to go out to Henman Hill. I thought about going off to a pub but there aren't any nearby

Nick Hutchings from Reading

"That much was true - I got in without queueing - but one of the honorary stewards told me the queue for Centre Court and Court One resale tickets is as big, if not bigger, than ever."

Former British number ones Tim Henman and Andrew Castle were among those perched in front of a TV in the BBC commentators lounge and most monitors in the press centre were also tuned into the football.

As a couple of early chances came and went for England, gasps could be heard emanating from the players' canteen at the Aorangi Park practice courts.

When I ventured up there Murray's fitness trainers Matt Little and Jez Green were willing Fabio Capello's men forward and Swiss player Patty Schnyder had her eyes glued to the screen.

Perhaps still reeling from his country's World Cup elimination on Tuesday, however, Frenchman Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga seemed unconcerned by events at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as he practised throughout the match.

"I was almost put off coming here today," admitted Nick Hutchings from Reading, who was listening to a pocket radio on Henman Hill when Jermain Defoe scored the winning goal for England.

"When I bought my Centre Court tickets I thought the Slovenia match was going to be a dead rubber but suddenly it's our biggest match in years.

"I brought my radio and intended to listen in my seat but I can't get a signal on Centre Court, so I've had to come out here. I thought about going off to a pub but there aren't any nearby."

I've been reading people's Facebook status updates to keep myself posted on the England match - but it's so nerve-wracking not being able to watch it here at Wimbledon

David Fitzgerald from Liverpool

Others around Wimbledon received updates by phone call or text message and Salima from New York was standing outside Court 18 receiving live video through an iPhone application.

When news of Defoe's goal began to filter through there were a few cheers around the All England Club and one man on Centre Court shouted "come on, England" during Andy Roddick's second round meeting with Michael Llodra.

"I've been reading people's Facebook status updates to keep myself posted but it's so nerve-wracking not being able to watch it," said David Fitzgerald from Liverpool at half-time.

"Going 1-0 up has calmed me down but there's a long way to go yet. We thought about heading to a pub but it's a 20-minute walk each way and we wanted to get back to watch Roger Federer."

As the second half wore on and England failed to extend their advantage the anxiety merely increased and, after seeing off Llodra, Roddick gesticulated to the crowd, as if urging them to go and watch the football.

A gaggle of security guards, paramedics and firemen timed their tea-breaks to perfection, heading inside the broadcast centre to catch a glimpse of the closing stages, while outside there was only one question on everyone's lips - "is it still 1-0?".

Eventually the full-time whistle sounded and pockets of celebration broke out on Centre Court.

"We were sat in the stands with our phones on silent but we almost leapt out of our seats when my husband texted to say England had won," enthused Jane Summers from Crawley.

"A great day of tennis and a victory for England - what more could you want?"

Fortunately for all concerned, England's last-16 match is on Sunday - a rest day at Wimbledon.

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see also
Wimbledon day three as it happened
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Djokovic and Roddick both advance
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Llodra v Roddick as it happened
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Venus eases by Makarova challenge
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Makarova v Venus as it happened
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Wimbledon 2010 - day three photos
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Grand Slam men singles results
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Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Tennis on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Tennis

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