Football rivalry no barrier to mixed-doubles pair

Henry Patten and Olivia Nicholls

"It's a touchy subject, but we've managed to put it to one side - it's only tennis focus now."

Those are the words of Norwich City fan Olivia Nicholls, who has teamed up with Ipswich Town supporter Henry Patten for the mixed doubles at Wimbledon.

The duo beat fellow British pair Julian Cash and Maia Lumsden 7-5 7-6 (7-5) on Court 18 on Monday to set up a last-16 meeting with second seeds Michael Venus and Erin Routliffe.

"He's not giving me as much abuse and banter as I thought he might, especially after a great season for Ipswich, getting promotion - it kills me to say it," Nicholls told BBC Sport.

The pair have known each other since childhood tennis events, but have never before teamed up at the All-England Club, where 29-year-old Nicholls was a semi-finalist with Jonny O'Mara 12 months ago.

"We've been trying to line this up for a few years now," she said.

"Me and Henry used to play all of the same tournaments together in East Anglia in the summers, so to be going from Frinton, Felixstowe, Cromer to Court 18 at Wimbledon, we couldn't have dreamed of something like that happening."

The weather has meant a few stop-starts on the outside courts, but 6ft 6in Patten, 28, said: "Everyone is getting pretty used to the rain. It's definitely a skill in itself to be able to stay alert, stay awake, stay ready to go.

"As Brits we have a slight advantage in that as we've been doing that, as Liv said, since we were probably eight years old in all of those places."

Patten is also through to the quarter-finals of the men's doubles with Finnish partner Harri Heliovaara, but Nicholls and Tereze Mihalikova were beaten in three sets in the third round of the women's doubles.

On the atmosphere during the match with Cash and Lumsden, Patten added: "I think they were just enjoying the chemistry that the two teams had, there was a bit of banter going back and forth and it's not often that an Ipswich fan and a Norwich fan get along so well."

Barring being drawn together in the FA or League Cup, there will be no East Anglian derby next season, so that state of affairs should continue for a few months at least.

Interview by BBC English Regions' Victoria Polley at the All England Club