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Female Spitfire pilot upstages celebrities at Wimbledon

Published 02/07/2016

A couple shelter from the rain on court one
A couple shelter from the rain on court one

David Beckham, Sir Chris Hoy and Second World War Spitfire pilot Joy Lofthouse watched on from the Royal Box as Andy Murray roar into the last 16 of Wimbledon.

World Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks were among a host of sports stars who were guests at Centre Court for the tournament's middle Saturday.

Beckham received a raucous round of applause as he was introduced to the crowd, along with sporting luminaries such as heptathlete Denise Lewis, cricketers James Anderson and Stuart Broad and former Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll.

But the biggest ovation was reserved for 93-year-old Mrs Lofthouse, who was cheered to the Centre Court rafters as she was introduced to the crowd and celebrities around her.

Mrs Lofthouse flew Spitfires and Hurricanes after joining the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1943 with her sister to do their bit for the war effort.

The pair, who joined up after spotting an advert in a flying magazine, were two of just 164 women who were allowed to fly with the ATA during the war.

Before play started under the roof, Britain's Davis Cup captain Leon Smith led James Ward, Kyle Edmund, Jamie Murray and Dan Evans on a lap of honour around the court.

Murray raced into the Championships' second week with a convincing straight sets win over John Millman, overcoming the Australian in two hours and 10 minutes.

The match was delayed by rain, and during the break as the roof was being closed on Centre Court David Beckham joined in a Mexican wave from the Royal Box.

With defending champion Novak Djokovic slumping to a shock four-set defeat by American Sam Querrey, bookmakers have installed Murray as the favourite for the men's singles title at SW19.

But Murray, 29, shrugged off the suggestion, joking: "The bookies don't always get it right. They made a few mistakes over the last few weeks across a number of different things."

Speaking after his match, Murray hailed Djokovic's "incredible" run of four Grand Slam wins in a row, calling it "probably the best 12 months in tennis for years".

He said: "He broke a number of records, winning all four slams, what was it, 30 consecutive Grand Slam matches. It's amazing. I would imagine today he'd be disappointed."

He added: "The run that Novak has had has been incredible, so everyone expects him to win every match. But, you know, history suggests that that's not going to happen."

Murray also defended Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios, possibly his next opponent, accusing the media of trying to "wind him up the whole time".

He said: "It's not really fair on him, to be honest", adding: "It happens a lot where it doesn't seem like he's really done much in comparison to what other players are doing, and he's the one that gets asked all the questions about it."

Murray suggested that Kyrgios often "hasn't done loads wrong", and said he gets a "rough ride".

A rain-disrupted first week forced organisers to schedule play for the middle Sunday for the first time since 2004.

Some 22,000 tickets went on sale at 3pm on Saturday, being snapped up in less than half an hour.

But fans who paid up to £70 for tickets on People's Sunday did so without knowing who they can expect to see, because tickets were sold before the order of play could be announced.

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