Wimbledon Roof Becoming A Factor On Centre Court Matches
Nothing during the first week of Wimbledon has “created more drama, inspired more debate and changed the course of events" as the $125M retractable roof on Centre Court, according to Stephanie Myles of the Montreal GAZETTE. The roof was completed in time for the '09 tournament, and during the first two years, the roof “was barely used -- the weather was unusually good, and the Centre Court matches didn’t extend so long that they needed to finish them despite failing light.” However, this year, “it is undergoing a true baptism of fire.” Everyone “saw the roof effect” on Thursday night, after Rafael Nadal had “established the momentum in taking the fourth set" from Lukas Rosol in their second-round match. Play was stopped to close the roof, “which takes about 40 minutes, because not only must the roof slide over Centre Court, but the lights must take effect, and the climate control adjusted to account for the 15,000 warm bodies, to ensure the humidity of the newly-closed venue doesn’t make the grass slippery and dangerous.” When the two returned for the fifth set, “it was a completely different match,” which Rosol won. Wimbledon officials “chose not to close the roof for Caroline Wozniacki’s match against Tamira Paszek earlier in the week; it was stopped at 2-2 in the first set because of fading light.” Myles wrote, “Why not close it? It was probably because it was already the fourth match of the day on the court, so the tennis commitment had been met. It also was only the first round, and it was very early in the match.” It was also, “possibly -- and this has been a sensitive topic this Wimbledon -- because it was a women’s match.” When Wozniacki and Paszek “resumed on a rainy Wednesday, it was under the roof while the rest of the courts were covered.” Despite the return of clear skies, the roof “remained closed the rest of the day and night,” and that “caused more confusion” (Montreal GAZETTE, 7/1).
PUT A LID ON IT: In N.Y., Christopher Clarey wrote Wimbledon “still has a roof issue, and it has little to do with rain.” The roof was “closed from start to finish as a precautionary measure on Friday,” while the “other 18 match courts at Wimbledon were in full service outdoors.” Clarey wrote, “There is little doubt that the system works well. But its existence has created issues that were not clear initially. Above all, it is gradually transforming Wimbledon into a night tournament even though it has no official night sessions.” Wimbledon is “now considering building a roof on its No. 1 Court, which was designed to be roof-ready but still presents significant engineering challenges” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30).
PLAYING LIKE TWO DIFFERENT TOURNEYS: The AFP's Dave James reports Wimbledon was "hit by heavy rain" as concerns grew that the Centre Court roof "was transforming the 126-year-old event into an outdoor an indoor tournament at the same time." The "gloomy conditions provoked more debate" over the roof. Top-ranked men's player Novak Djokovic said, "This is an outdoor tournament, so I think everybody wants to play when the roof is open. I was a little bit surprised when I saw sunshine that the roof is closed. But obviously they're relying on the forecast that I don't think is very reliable here" (AFP, 7/2). ESPN’s Mike Tirico said, “It just felt odd that one day, Friday, we had play going on outside and the wind was a factor, and then we bounce back into Centre Court and things were calm and there was no wind. It felt like two different tournaments that were going on at one point.” Tirico asked, “I wonder if that’s why they tried to get as much roof-open action in as possible today?” ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez said Wimbledon “makes the point that this is an outdoor tournament, so they try as hard as possible to have the roof be open." Fernandez: "That’s why that Friday was a little bit confusing because it ended up not raining” (“Wimbledon,” ESPN, 7/2).
THE GRASS IS GREENER: ESPN.com’s Greg Garber noted the 28-man grounds crew at Wimbledon typically "takes the day off" following the end of the tourney, then "leisurely dismantles the scorched grass over a three-to-four-week period." Reseeding also is a "lengthy process.” However, with the Olympics looming, “they'll do it all in 24 hours” this year. Garber noted the courts will be “covered to produce a humid, greenhouse effect conducive to quick growth.” Hopefully, “in a little over a week's time, the grass will reach a height of 14 millimeters and be trimmed to the regulation eight millimeters” (ESPN.com, 7/1).