SBD/Issue 196/Facilities & Venues

Wimbledon Seizes Opportunity To Debut New Centre Court Roof

Officials Close Centre Court Roof
For First Time During Wimbledon
A "light passage of rain" yesterday at Wimbledon during the Dinara Safina-Amelie Mauresmo fourth-round match gave tournament officials an opening for the first time to "start closing their expensive new toy," the 1,000-ton retractable roof over Centre Court, according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. It was "not an obligatory move," as play "soon resumed on the outside courts and the sun soon resumed shining." But the Centre Court fans, "now part of tennis history itself, certainly appreciated the tournament referee Andrew Jarrett's eagerness." All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) CEO Ian Ritchie: "This is the first time ever at Wimbledon somebody is waiting for rain. But we still prefer the sunshine, don't we?" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). The GLOBE & MAIL's Tom Tebbutt writes "many old hands thought Wimbledon officials were over-anxious to finally close the roof after last week's fine weather, and jumped the gun by doing so after a light, 10-minute shower." The roof remained closed for the Andy Murray-Stanislas Wawrinka fourth-round match that followed Safina-Mauresmo, and leaving it closed "turned out to be a felicitous decision because of the superb quality of the tennis and the uproarious, pro-Murray crowd." The environment under the roof was "very impressive," as its "translucent cover provided a nice open feel during daylight and then everything became move vivid as day transitioned into night, creating a theatrical look with the two players featured centre stage" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/30). USA TODAY's Douglas Robson writes the atmosphere for Murray-Wawrinka, which finished at a record-late 10:39pm local time, was "more Wembley Stadium than Wimbledon." But it "wasn't all cool ... under the roof." Murray: "When I finished, it was like I'd been in a bath. It was very, very, very humid" (USA TODAY, 6/30).

FORCING THE ISSUE: In London, Dixon, Bennett & Pavia write the opening of the roof was "not quite the moment that the officials had expected," as tournament officials "found themselves rolling it out in the midst of a heatwave." The tournament had "progressed amid glorious sunshine and fears that the structure would prove an expensive folly" (LONDON TIMES, 6/30). Murray "feels tournament officials should have announced that the match would be played under the shelter of the roof earlier than they did." Murray: "It's tough when you're warming up, getting ready for the match outside and it's dry and then get told you're playing under the roof. The decision should be made before that match (Safina's) is finished so they can let the players know in a decent amount of time what conditions they are going to be playing under" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/30).

CHANGING PLAYING CONDITIONS: In L.A., Chuck Culpepper writes the roof "clearly will alter playing conditions," and it will "spawn bubbling debates about roof-usage propriety, and protocol for roof-usage announcements toward players." The roof also will "keep people up later." Mauresmo said of playing under the roof, "It makes the conditions a little bit different. ... It's really bright. But no, it's good" (L.A. TIMES, 6/30). More Mauresmo: "The ball was flying a little bit more, and when the ball is in the air it is bright. It's a feel, a little bit of feel" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 6/30). Murray said that the humidity "affected the way the ball traveled." Murray: "It kind of slowed it down a lot, and I struggled to serve because it wasn't coming off the strings that quickly. I like playing indoors, but I haven't ever practiced or played a match under a roof on grass, so you don't know what to expect" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/30).

Closed Roof Helps Accentuate
Reactions From Crowd
ROARING ROOF: In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes, "Everything under the roof was louder, from the nervous murmurs on points that Murray lost to the momentous roar of the crowd after Murray broke Wawrinka with a forehand winner for a 5-3 lead in the fifth set." The U.S. Open is "defined by such nocturnal raucousness," while at Wimbledon the "promise has been that the roof will not become an excuse to have separate programs for prime-time viewing." Araton: "But they probably pay a fair amount of attention to ratings here, too" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "They had told you how well Centre Court holds noise when the roof is closed. You started to hear it when Safina fought back against Mauresmo. It was nothing compared to what Centre Court sounded like at the end of the fifth set, when Murray ran the table from 3-all" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). Safina: "It was great. It was very nice. It's a really nice atmosphere playing under the roof because it makes the crowd sound louder" (London INDEPENDENT, 6/30). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the closed-roof feel at Centre Court is "bright and anything but stuffy" (TORONTO STAR, 6/30). In London, Alyson Rudd notes fans while waiting for the roof to close were "shown a documentary on the roof and it became clear that the acoustics are slightly painful." Rudd: "If, every time the roof is closed, they play that video, the ceiling will become unpopular very quickly" (LONDON TIMES, 6/30).

HISTORIC MOMENT: The LONDON TIMES' Rudd notes as the roof closed there were "gulps and then a final huge cheer and applause as the two sides of the structure finally eased together without a clunk or a click or a squeak." The "whole closure lasted seven glorious minutes" (LONDON TIMES, 6/30). USA TODAY's Robson notes fans "roared when the apparatus ... came smoothly shut" (USA TODAY, 6/30). In DC, Liz Clarke writes, "What was the harm, after all, if officials behaved like an impatient child who couldn't wait a moment more to show off a new toy? Spectators reveled in becoming part of Wimbledon history, as did commentators for Radio Wimbledon, who narrated each incremental development as the two halves of the roof crept on their trusses toward one another, centimeter by centimeter, in breathless fashion" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30). NBC’s Mary Carillo said during the seven-minute process to close the roof, "This is oddly exciting." Carillo: "There are so many fans here taking pictures of this, and so are we." NBC’s John McEnroe counted down as the roof finished closing, saying, "I feel like we’re landing on (the moon). 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'" Carillo later said, "I am unbelievably giddy. This is not the first time I've ever been indoors so I'm not sure why I'm this excited, but there's something very special about this" ("Wimbledon," NBC, 6/29).

ABOUT TIME IT WAS ADDED: Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said of the Centre Court roof, "I like the roof being there, and I didn't understand all the complaining from the so-called purists about not wanting it. Wimbledon is so rain-delayed in so many years they had to build a roof. It hasn't hurt it" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/29). Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga: "The few people in this country who want to watch tennis, a lot of times it's a rain delay. This thing probably should have been on a decade or so ago" ("Washington Post Live," CSN Mid-Atlantic, 6/29).

ADDING REINFORCEMENTS: In London, Emily Benammar reports Wimbledon officials are "considering the option of opening up Court Two to Andy Murray fans on Sunday should the Scot make it to the final." The AELTC currently sells 6,000 grounds tickets per day, but the "inclusion of screens on Court Two would allow an extra 4,000 supporters to be on site." No decision will be made "until it is clear who will feature in the weekend's finals" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/30).

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