Court Circular

Whole different ball game
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The Independent Online

We all know that a lot of British tennis players have a keen interest in football – Barry Cowan tells us that Gérard Houllier has invited him to train with his Liverpool team, Jamie Delgado follows Real Madrid, Arvind Parmar and Martin Lee are both Millwall fans, Greg Rusedski is a Gunner – but Elena Baltacha (daughter of the former Dynamo Kiev and Ipswich sweeper, Sergei) has taken things a step further. She's started talking footy patter.

"I was over the moon," the gutsy 17-year-old said yesterday, describing how she felt on Tuesday when she was told her first-round match against Nathalie Dechy had been moved from Court Four to Centre Court. "They told me about 30 minutes before. I couldn't believe it. I started crying through pure joy."

And her assessment of the tie, which she lost 6-1, 7-5? "It was a match of two halves. In the first set, my feet didn't move I was so nervous. In the second, I felt more relaxed and got into it." So is she sick as a parrot? "No, it was amazing. I've still got a lot to learn, I'm not quick enough, I need more vision, but it was a fantastic experience to play there at my age. And hopefully it won't be the last time."

Family misfortune

Three members of the same famous African tennis clan crashed out of the championships yesterday, the first time a trio from one family has gone out on the same day. Byron went out in the men's singles, Cara in the women's, and Wayne in the men's doubles. Truly a Black day for the Zimbabwean game.

Overnight camper

One of the first fans through the gates of the All England Club this morning will be...

Name: Oliver Reed.

Age: 19.

Occupation: Barman.

Tickets sought: Centre Court, £33.

Arrived outside the All England Club: 2pm, yesterday. What provisions did you bring with you? "Turkey sandwiches, 30 cans of beer, sausage rolls, economy biscuits, a giant inflatable champagne bottle, an I Love Sue Barker T-shirt and a werewolf mask."

Are you sad, mad or simply a tennis fanatic? "None of the above. I'm just not posh enough to get tickets any other way."

Who are you here to see? "I wanted to have a dribble at Kournikova but as she's not here I'll have to settle for baldy Agassi."

Who will win this year? "Sampras."

Racket or raclette – would you rather play a match against a top player or share a cheese-topped snack with one?

"Play a match, against Tim Henman."

How many tennis balls can you fit in your shorts? "Enough to fill a Mini."

If your namesake were alive, he'd probably become extremely inebriated and fall out of the Royal Box. Can we expect similar from you? "If I can get past security, yes."

The view from over there

Readers of the De Nieuwe Gazet in Belgium will find contrasting news about their brightest young prospects this morning. "We'll be covering Justine Henin's second-round match as a main story," Walter Thijs, the paper's tennis writer, said. "She won, but wasn't good. She looked tired and had no backhand at all today. It's her biggest weapon, which is worrying." On the flip side, Thijs's preview of Kim Clijster's game today, against Maureen Drake, will be upbeat. "She'll win," he said. "Easily, 6-2, 6-2." Will he be writing about the British? "At the start of the tournament we rated each player to decide how much we'd generally follow them. Pete Sampras got three stars, Tim Henman got two and Greg Rusedski got one."

What a racket

A "rackets and balls" tie at the All England Club shop costs £38, which is a mere £24 more than a similar silk printed tie at Tie Rack, where it costs £14. Someone in the SW19 pricing department should get it in the neck, surely?

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