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2009: The first full match under Centre Court's roof showcased British tennis' newest Wimbledon title contender, Andy Murray
The tournament's infamous rain delays were over as a 22-year-old Scot won a fittingly epic, and epically loud, five-setter over Stan Wawrinka.
Published Jun 23, 2022
Centre Court turns 100 this year. During that time, this bastion of propriety and tradition has also borne witness to a century’s worth of progress and tennis democratization. For its centennial, we look back at 10 of its most historic and sport-changing matches.
Andy Murray d. Stan Wawrinka
2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3
2009 Wimbledon fourth round
“I tell you what, the treble-heavy echo inside Centre Court is highly irritating, Wimbledon now boasting all the sexy ambience of your average provincial leisure center.”
That was the reaction from The Guardian’s live blog, on June 29, 2009, as the retractable roof over Centre Court closed for the first time, during a fourth-round match between Amelie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina. I was in the building that day as well, and I have to admit that my initial thoughts on the roof, and what it did to the atmosphere in the stadium, weren’t much more upbeat than those I’ve quoted above. The grass was the same, the walls and seats and players and fans were the same, but Centre Court as we knew it had vanished. The sky and the natural light in the arena were gone, and the sounds inside were both louder and more muffled. The roof kept the rain out, but it also made it feel a little like we were watching tennis underwater.
Now that the roof had arrived, the next question was whether it would be allowed to stay for following match, which was the marquee Centre Court contest on this Manic Monday, Murray vs. Wawrinka. Again, The Guardian was a tad skeptical about the tournament’s decision-making acumen:
“My prediction is this,” the paper’s blogger wrote. “They’ll take the roof off for the Murray match, then be forced to put it back on again at some point, wasting 30-40 minutes of all of our lives, minutes we’ll never see again. Thank you, my Wimbledon!”
Tournament officials defied that dire prediction by keeping the roof on for the entirety of Murray-Wawrinka, making it the first full match to be played indoors at Wimbledon. Those officials might have thought the debut of their multi-million-dollar covering, and the prospect of no more rain delays on Centre Court, would be cause for rejoicing among tennis fans. Right from the start, though, the roof was a source of controversy. On this evening, the weather stayed dry, but the covering stayed on. What happened to the tournament’s talk of remaining an outdoor event, and using the roof only when necessary? Had TV interests, and the desire not to have any delays, played a role? Had the hometown hero been favored? Thirteen years later, questions like these still come up during the fortnight, and likely always will.
Whatever issues fans may have with the roof, few would want to see it removed, and the soul-crushing rainouts of yore return. While the indoor atmosphere took some getting used to at first, Murray and Wawrinka showed that life under the roof came with an upside—a very loud one. The more intense their four-hour, five-set contest became, and the closer Murray made the scoreline, the higher the noise levels rose in the newly enclosed space. It began when Murray was introduced; continued as he mounted a comeback after losing the first set; and rose to a decibel level previously unheard in Centre Court when he fought off exhaustion to prevail 6-3 in the fifth set.
“When you’ve got 15,000 people supporting you, it’s pretty special, Murray said amid the din afterward.
This was a new level of support for the 22-year-old Scot from the Wimbledon fans, and Murray responded with a new level of emotional intensity.
Even The Guardian’s live blogger was impressed: “I think Wimbledon might finally have fallen in love with him,” he wrote of Murray.
After beating Wawrinka, Murray would reach his first Wimbledon semifinal; four years later, he would become the first British man in 77 years to win the tournament. Next week, at 35, he’ll embark on his 14th All England campaign.
As for the roof, its treble-heavy echo may still be irritating, but it’s not nearly as irritating as the sound of no tennis at all.
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