May 18, 2009

Wimbledon unveils Centre Court roof in grand opening

It was a perfect day to showcase the new retractable roof at Wimbledon's Center Court yesterday.

The roof was closed when it started to rain.

The event kicked off with the performance by British crossover opera singers Faryl Smith and Katherine Jenkins who sang “Amazing Grace” in the center of the court.

Katherine Jenkins with 13-year old Faryl Smith.

Katherine Jenkins making the O face.

Il Divo wannabe, Blake.

A crowd of 15,000 spectators were watching Andre Agassi, his wife Steffi Graf, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters play mixed doubles and singles matches.

The players praised the new retractable roof.
“The conditions were really good,” Clijsters said.

“And I love the sound. Wimbledon already had that, where you feel like when (the crowd is) really into the match, the sound really comes down to the players."
And now even more so with the roof. For the players, it just feels like they’re right there next to you.”
Agassi also said the closed surrounding will take the atmosphere to a new level.
“The sound was magnificent,” he said.

“I think when you get two people out there who can really play, and move and hit the ball, I think you’re going to feel a level of titanic battle that you haven’t seen yet. … That’s an environment that lends itself to some spectacular tennis.”
The roof was built to limit the frequent rain delays that occur at the Wimbledon Championships each season.

Steffi Graf should keep that at home.

The crowd was entertained by the husband and wife team, Graf, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, who returned to the Centre Court for the first time in 10 years, and Agassi who won his first Grand Slam title here in 1992.

The couple drew a large cheer by exchanging a good-luck kiss on the court before the doubles match.

Kim Clijsters can consider a career change to a footballer if tennis doesn't work for her anymore.

Everybody's a winner.

Henman and Clijsters won the one-set match 7-6 (6).

Agassi then beat Henman 6-4 in singles and Clijsters defeated Graf by the same score.

Andy Murray and girlfriend Kim Sears.

Andy Murray who attended the event with his girlfriend also praised the new structure.
“It’s beautiful,” said Andy Murray, who hopes to become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon.

“It looks very nice, compared to most roofs.”
The roof takes about 10 minutes to close, and the Centre Court’s ventilation system then needs about 30 minutes to get moisture out of the air and create the right conditions.

During short rain showers, organizers still plan on using the traditional covers on the court to create shorter breaks. Once the roof is up, it will not open up until a match is over.

(Via AP, operachic; Images by Hamish Blair/Neal Simpson/AFP/Getty Images)

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