Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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A decade of Williams dominance began on 8 July 2000, when elder sister Venus defeated defending champion Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 7-6(3). The win came two days after 20-year-old Venus had defeated her then 18-year-old sister Serena in the semis, and 10 months after Serena had won the US Open. The Williamses thus became the first sisters in the Open era to win Grand Slam titles.
Though many suspected that the American siblings would be a force to be reckoned with over the coming years, few could have predicted just how the first 10 years of the new millennium would belong to the Williamses, with SW19 proving to be a particularly happy hunting ground. Venus’s win over Davenport, which came thanks to a combination of powerful services and groundstrokes, crisp volleys and tireless running, which made her opponent look decidedly flat-footed, was the first of five titles on Wimbledon’s lawns to go with the US Open titles which she won in 2000 and 2001.
Only Maria Sharapova in 2004 and Amelie Mauresmo in 2006 managed to break the Williams hegemony during that magical decade.
Andre Agassi versus Pat Rafter was always a good one for the fans to watch. The American was one of the best returners in the game and wore out a path along the baseline, while the Aussie was an attacker who felt most at home at the net.
In the space of 12 months they played three Grand Slam five-setters between June 2000 and June 2001, two of them at Wimbledon (where they had already met twice, Agassi winning in 1993 and 1999). All of them were classics, none more so than at The Championships 2000. Rafter parlayed his serve-and-volley to a one-set lead, but Agassi found his range on his passing shots to level at one-all. Errors in the American’s game again handed Rafter the advantage but Agassi could never be counted out over the Grand Slam distance and duly fought back to take it to a fifth set.
The match went down in the annals as a classic, primarily due to the number of rallies it contained. Though the Australian tried to keep the points short on his own service, he managed to disrupt Agassi with his returning game full of heavy slice from the baseline. The American cracked first, and Rafter found himself in his first Wimbledon final.
Wimbledon was where Pete Sampras felt most at home and none but the most foolish were prepared to write him off. Having battled tendonitis in his right knee on his way to the final, the American was left to face Australia’s Pat Rafter for his seventh Wimbledon title and his record-breaking 13th Grand Slam trophy.
Sampras stumbled through the first set tiebreak, offering it up with a double fault but then sniffed the scent of blood as Rafter blew a 4-1 lead in the second. At a set apiece, Sampras, at last, began to settle and as the night drew in, he closed out his emotional 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory. He burst into tears and then ran for the back of the stands to find his parents, Sam and Georgia, who had flown in overnight to see their son make history.
It was Sampras's last great moment at the All England Club. Two lean and title-free years later, he was rewriting the record books again, winning his 14th grand slam title at the US Open by beating Agassi. That, he thought, was enough and with nothing left to achieve and no prospect of bettering those last two grand slam triumphs, he called it a day. History could take care of itself from now on.
Friday 6 July
Croat Goran Ivanisevic had started The Championships as a wild card, but the tennis he went on to produce defied his world ranking of No.125. The day’s first semi-final was a marathon and when rain brought a halt to the Henman-Ivanisevic clash after just three sets at 6.18pm, it was the Briton who was in charge. Although Ivanisevic had clinched a tight opening set 7-5, Henman hit back to nick the second on a tie-break before racing through the third by ‘bageling’ Ivanisevic in just 15 minutes. With Henman up 2-1 in the fourth when play was abandoned for the day, the Oxfordshire star was within touching distance of a place in the final.
Saturday 7 July
A full night’s sleep had given Ivanisevic the chance to gather his thoughts and he quickly put the disastrous third set behind him. Ultimately, a fourth-set tiebreak was required and when Tiger Tim opened up a 3-1 lead, once more, things were looking good for the Henmaniacs. Croatia’s finest had other ideas however, and despite standing two points from defeat, Ivanisevic fought his way out of the breaker to force a deciding set. The two men played another five games and with the wild card up 3-2 in the fifth rain brought another premature end to the day’s drama at 6.29 pm. The match would go into a third day.
Sunday 8 July
Both men knew it would be decided by one thing – guts – and so it proved. Henman had a brief window of opportunity when Ivanisevic trailed 0-30 on serve at 3-3, but the outsider blasted his way out of trouble, broke in the very next game and served out the match to complete a memorable 7-5, 6-7(6), 0-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory exactly 45 hours and nine minutes after it had begun on the Friday.
In what was arguably the feel-good tennis final of all time, the charismatic Croat Goran Ivanisevic defeated the equally regarded Australian Pat Rafter in an epic five-set, three-hour-one-minute final, with Centre Court inhabited by an ecstatic corner of Bedlam.
The three-times beaten finalist had been given a wildcard as a gesture of goodwill for what he once did; he was 125 in the world and two months off his 30th birthday. A string of early exits and a lingering left shoulder problem provoked talk of imminent retirement and a career without a Grand Slam.
The crowd, on People's Monday, cried, cheered, roared and chanted as Ivanisevic, like a gentle giant, stood with his arms aloft on top of a television commentary box to cast his shadow over his kingdom; acknowledging the ovation, capturing the moment with his mind's eye.
Rafter, himself troubled by injury and losing a second successive final, was a gallant loser and recognised the Centre Court happening described by Ivanisevic as a time when "everybody was going nuts". The third seed said: "I don't think Wimbledon has seen anything like it and I don't know whether it will again."
We did not realise it at the time, but this was a changing of the guard. Pete Sampras – a seven-time champion unbeaten in 31 matches dating back to 1996 – was defeated by Roger Federer, who would go on to win six Wimbledon titles himself.
Sampras had already walked on egg shells earlier in the tournament, taking five sets to overcome British wildcard Barry Cowan in the second round. Federer meanwhile was only 19 but already one for the future, having won the Hopman Cup (alongside Martina Hingis) and Milan already in 2001 and reached the quarter-finals of the French Open a few weeks prior to Wimbledon.
Federer’s serving, movement and attacking mentality were Sampras-esque throughout a match which ebbed and flowed for five sets and in an ironic twist, it would be the only time the two greats faced each other on tour.
He and Federer would meet again in SW19 however, when the latter sealed his 15th Grand Slam win on Centre Court in 2009, taking Sampras’ record in the process.
The graveyard of champions earned its sobriquet over the years, and never more so than in 2002. Previous Wimbledon winners to have lost on Court No.2 included John McEnroe, Virginia Wade, Jimmy Connors, Pat Cash, Andre Agassi, Richard Krajicek and Lleyton Hewitt, and then in 2002 came the biggest of them all. Pete Sampras was feeling out of sorts, hounded by the press who wanted to be the first to hear about his impending (according to them at least) retirement.
He took to the court to face George Bastl, a Swiss player for whom the word “journeyman” was invented. He was 145 in the world, only in the tournament as a lucky loser and had set up this second-round clash by defeating another lucky loser a few days earlier.
Two months later, Pistol Pete would go on to capture his 14th and final Grand Slam title at the US Open but in between times, Bastl recorded the greatest win of his career, downing Sampras 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 in what would be the American’s last ever match at Wimbledon. The Swiss then lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to David Nalbandian in the next round, and like Sampras, he never won another match in SW19.
To crow, along the lines of “how the mighty are fallen”, would be terribly unfair. Lleyton Hewitt was a mere 22 years old and he found himself up against a 6’10” Croat who would go on to carve himself a niche as one of the hardest servers in the game. But when the title-holder crashed out in the opening round of the 2003 Championships to an unknown qualifier ranked 203 in the world, there was more than enough Schadenfreude to go round.
Hewitt was unlucky enough to come up against a young Ivo Karlovic at a time when the grass was fast and aces rained down. He had, the previous year, been lucky enough to peak early in his career, during the "interregnum" between the Pete Sampras and the Roger Federer eras to secure his second Grand Slam title. He made the most of the period of grace accorded to him by the waning of Sampras’s star prior to Federer’s ascension to greatness, winning the US Open in 2001 and the ATP end-of-season world tour finals in 2001 and 2002.
Only once in the history of The Championships had the defending men’s champion had lost in the opening round. At least 1966 winner Manuel Santana (who lost to Charlie Pasarell in the first round the following year) had some company in the record books.
In 2003, 25 years after her first singles title (of nine), Martina Navratilova equalled the amazing Championships record of Billie Jean King with her 20th Wimbledon title, this one coming alongside Leander Paes in the mixed doubles. This historic moment came less than six months after she had achieved the "boxed set" of winning the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles at all four Grand Slams (something that eluded even Billie Jean), emulating Doris Hart and Margaret Court before her.
"All my titles here are special but the last one was eight years ago and I never thought I'd play again after that," said Navratilova after she and Paes defeated Andy Ram and Anastasia Rodionova 6-3, 6-3 in the final. The Czech-born American toyed with retirement but accepted a wildcard into the singles draw at The Championships the following year – a decision which attracted criticism both of Navratilova and the AELTC, which she summarily silenced with a 6-0, 6-1 win in the first round over Catalina Castano and by taking Gisela Dulko to three sets in the second round.
The win with Paes also took her overall Slam record to 58 wins, second only to Margaret Court’s 62, and she would go on to add another in 2006, when she partnered Bob Bryan to the US Open title a month before her 50th birthday.
If we take out Lottie Dodd, who was still 15 when she won at the tail-end of the 19th century, then only Martina Hingis, who was 16 years and nine months when she won in 1997, was younger than the six-foot Siberian champion.
Sharapova was a tender 17 years and 2 months when she arrived in SW19 in 2004, but she opened a few eyes when she won at the Priory Club in Edgbaston earlier in the month and was seeded No.13 for The Championships. Not that she was expected to win even after she defeated Lindsay Davenport in the semis – a certain Miss S.J. Williams was lying in wait in the final. Serena had won The Championships in 2002 and 2003 and had taken over from her sister Venus, who took the Wimbledon title in 2000 and 2001.
Only 30 minutes into the match however and the sibling domination was all but over. Sharapova took the opening set in half an hour. Serena managed an early break in the second set but the tide was not for turning. Sharapova won 6-1, 6-4, and with her triumph book-ended by Anastasia Myskina’s surprise win at the French and Svetlana Kuznetsova’s success at the US Open, it seemed as if a new Russian era of tennis was being ushered in. Instead it served to spur on the rivalries between the Williams sisters, Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters and Sharapova herself in a brief golden age in the women’s game.
There have been plenty of films about Wimbledon, but in 2004 there was one which is now filed not under sports documentaries but romantic comedies. “Wimbledon” is the story of a player ranked just outside the top 100 who gets a wildcard to The Championships and ends up winning the whole shebang (much a la Goran Ivanisevic in 2001).
The film features John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Mary Carillo and John Barrett in the commentary box, and while Kirsten Dunst cuts an unlikely figure on the baseline, Paul Bettany who plays the lead most certainly benefitted from the coaching of 1987 Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, who trained the actors in the art of swinging the catgut.
Plenty of local landmarks are featured including Heathrow airport, the Dorchester Hotel and the London Eye, but the most unmistakable images came from the All England Club, predominantly on the old and sadly now departed No.3 court where the fans were so close to the action.
After six titles with the other “Woodie”, Todd Woodbridge bagged another hat-trick – this time alongside Jonas Bjorkman – and broke the Wimbledon record for men’s doubles titles. His ninth success, achieved in 2004, outshone the previous best of eight, which dated back a century, when "Big Do and Little Do" – brothers Reggie and Laurie Doherty – were at their peak.
SW19 was certainly a happy hunting ground for Woodbridge during his playing days. As a singles player, he defeated Sampras on the hallowed lawns in 1989 and even made the semis in 1997. Doubles was definitely his speciality however, and he secured every big trophy there was to win – all four Slams for a total of 16 Majors, the ATP World Tour Finals on two occasions and Olympic Gold in 1996.
Most of his success came as one half of the Woodies, but when Mark Woodforde retired in 2000, Woodbridge went on to secure four more Slams alongside Bjorkman, the last one coming at Wimbledon in 2004. The following year, with a record 83 ATP doubles titles to his name, Woodbridge announced his retirement – at Wimbledon, of course.
The longest women’s singles final in Wimbledon history saw Venus Williams win her third title, seeing off No.1 seed and 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport in two hours 45 minutes.
Davenport had defeated Dinara Safina, Kim Clijsters, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo en route to the final, while No.14 seed Venus had had to overcome Mary Pierce in the quarters and defending champion Maria Sharapova in the semis. Having taken such prominent scalps along the way, it was only fitting that the final was such a classic. Davenport edged the opener then broke Venus in the 11th game of the second set, giving the taller of the two lofty Americans the opportunity to serve for the title. Venus amazingly broke back to love to stay alive before dominating the tie-break to level the tie.
Davenport broke to lead 4-2 in the decider and stood at 40-15 on her own service. Undaunted, Venus broke back then levelled. Davenport went for treatment on her back before returning to carve out a match point on her opponent’s serve. Venus saved it and the match went into overtime. At 7-7 the elder of the two tennis-playing Williams sisters broke, and despite double-faulting on her first match point she took the second to emerge victorious 4-6, 7-6(4), 9-7 after a tie which, for once, actually deserved to be called an "epic".
Having played the grand total of one Challenger event together prior to the tournament, South African Wes Moodie and Australian Stephen Huss swept all before them at The Championships in 2005 and became the first ever qualifiers to win the men’s doubles.
The pairing formed just weeks before The Championships, but claimed plenty of notable scalps throughout the tournament. Todd Woodbridge, who had won his ninth Wimbledon men’s doubles title just 12 months earlier, was sent packing into retirement after he and Mahesh Bhupathi fell to the newcomers in the second round, then in the semis they defeated Jonas Bjorkman (who had partnered Woodbridge to victory in 2002, 2003 and 2004) and Max Mirnyi.
To cap things off in the final, they defeated the legendary Bryan brothers, perhaps the best doubles pairing of the decade, in four sets. For the two victors, this would prove to be the pinnacle of their careers. Huss did win in Beijing in 2008 alongside Ross Hutchins, while Moodie won at Queen’s in 2009 with Mikhail Youzhny. Grand Slam success however came along just this once.
Was it a changing of the guard? Not quite, but it was certainly symbolic. A balding, 36-year-old American was dispatched in straight sets by a Spaniard 16 years his junior, complete with flowing locks and a pirate’s bandana.
It was probably more ironic than symbolic. Back in the day, it was Andre Agassi who created a stir around his hair, his accessories and his return of service. And after 134 minutes of play followed by a far-from-traditional on-court interview, Agassi’s Wimbledon career was over, beaten by a young Rafael Nadal. As a 17-year-old prodigy from the Nick Bollettieri academy, he won a mere five games against Henri Leconte in his debut and vowed never to return. He finally came back in 1991 and the following year, despite a few warnings from umpires for some very un-Wimbledonesque language, he defeated Goran Ivanisevic in a five-set epic. His only disappointment that year was not being able to dance with ladies’ singles winner Steffi Graf at the Champions’ Ball, but that pleasure would come later.
Indeed, he would return alongside Stefanie Graf-Agassi in 2009 for the Centre Court celebration. In the intervening years he had won the US, Australian and French Opens to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams on three different surfaces. He had earned that on-court interview in 2006, and the showman and contrarian in him revelled in the fact that he had engineered a break with tradition “in the place that first taught me to respect the sport”, as he himself put it as he bowed out.
It was not surprising that ‘The Ice Man’, Bjorn Borg, betrayed no emotion as he watched Roger Federer’s bid to equal his record of five successive Wimbledon titles.
The world No.1 was undefeated in 33 matches at the All England Club going into the final, but standing in his path was Rafael Nadal, who had beaten the Swiss in the French Open final just weeks before.
Having won the third set in a tie-breaker, the usually unflappable Federer became frustrated by his relentless opponent and a succession of Hawk-Eye’s calls that went against him. Nadal stormed into a 5-1 lead in the fourth but was then forced to call for the trainer to have his right knee taped. Inclement weather meant that the Majorcan had not had a day's rest since the start of the second week. Though Nadal won the fourth set 6-2, Federer could smell blood in the water. His mind was in total lock-down, focused on winning and winning alone, and he raced away to claim his fifth Wimbledon trophy 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2 in 225 minutes.
After at least a year’s brouhaha during which Venus Williams, Billie Jean King and even then British Prime Minister Tony Blair added their two pennies’ worth on the subject, the All England Club decided in 2007 to award equal prize money to both men and women across the board, from the champions down to the first-round losers in all events.
The princely sum of £11,282,710 was split evenly, with winners Roger Federer and Venus Williams pocketing £700,000 each for their fortnight’s work. "Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time," said Tim Phillips, Chairman of the All England Club.
"We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognises the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon. We hope it will also encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon."
The 2007 Wimbledon Championships saw the All England Club deploy Hawk-Eye for the first time as electronic line-calling technology on Centre and No.1 courts.
The move followed successful testing to verify the accuracy of the system on grass as well as agreement of the protocol to be adopted when using the system – namely that Wimbledon would allow for three incorrect challenges in a set, an increase from the previous figure of two used at the US and Australian Opens.
Whilst the name "Hawk-Eye" has obvious connotations of pin-point vision, it actually comes from the system’s inventor, Dr Paul Hawkins, whose innovation was first used in the 2001 Ashes cricket series. It was used as part of television coverage for the Davis Cup in 2002, and debuted at a Grand Slam in Australia in 2003.
Hawk-Eye replaced the previous "Cyclops" system, which involved infra-red beams used to determine whether services were in or out.
"Murray wins Wimbledon" is a headline British journalists have been dying to write for years now, but they already had such an opportunity in 2007. This was the year that Jamie Murray, elder brother of Andy, partnered soon-to-be singles world No.1 Jelena Jankovic to victory in the mixed doubles.
The success had the two vital ingredients for the UK tabloid press: a home-grown hero and a "leggy" (their words) partner who was happy to fuel the speculation that this was no mere on-court marriage of convenience – this was indeed a "love match". "When it was a breakpoint I was telling him if he got a good return he would get many kisses, but he kept putting it out," sighed Jelena in many a post-match press conference. When the pairing overcame Jonas Bjorkman and Alicia Molik in a three-set final, the fairytale was complete. They danced at the Champions’ Ball and there was even talk of Jelena being invited to spend Christmas up in Scotland with the Murrays.
Since then, things have cooled. Jelena is concentrating on her singles career, Jamie has married a waitress from Dunblane and the journos are still waiting to dust off their "Murray wins Wimbledon" headlines.
From 2000-2010, the Williams sisters made SW19 their own back yard. Venus won five singles titles, Serena four. Four times they faced each other in the final, and on three of those occasions they then returned to Centre Court to contest – and win – the women’s doubles.
Beaten semi-finalist Elena Dementieva had fanned the flames of criticism over their seemingly dull previous finals, saying of the final: "For sure it's going to be a family decision."
If it was, then they certainly did an admirable cover-up job. Serena started the quicker and was a hair’s breadth away from a 4-1 lead when a net cord intervened. Venus powered back to take the first set with a run of five games out of six then breaking her own Wimbledon service record in the second set with a 129mph offering en route to a 7-5, 6-4 win.
Three hours later they were back on Centre Court, and this time neither sister would have to leave disappointed or metaphorically empty-handed. A 6-2, 6-2 win over Sam Stosur and Lisa Raymond gave the Williamses their third Wimbledon doubles title.
It has been hailed as the greatest tennis match ever played, watched, or attended. At 9.15pm, in the gloaming of Centre Court, Rafael Nadal proverbially snatched the glinting gold Wimbledon trophy from under Roger Federer's nose for his first Wimbledon victory.
Flashbulbs exploded and reverberated around the court, Federer rooted to his chair in disbelief, Nadal, the happiest man on earth. He had conquered Wimbledon's grass, and one of its greatest champions. Spain's world No.2 won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7, to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to do the French Open and Wimbledon double in the same summer. He was also the first Spaniard to win Wimbledon since Manuel Santana in 1966.
"It's impossible to explain what I felt in that moment but I'm very, very happy. It is a dream to play on this court, my favourite tournament, but to win I never imagined," Nadal said.
"I tried everything, got a little late, but look, Rafa is a deserving champion, he just played fantastic. The rain didn't make it easier but you have to expect the worst and he's the worst opponent on the best court," Federer said.
Was this the moment when the British crowd finally decided that Andy Murray was "one of us"? The SW19 like nothing more than an epic fight-back from a local hero, and the Scotsman served one up at the end of "Manic Monday" – the mid-point of every Championships.
In 2008, it was former French prodigy Richard Gasquet, the No.8 seed, looking as if he would at last live up to the hype, taking the opening two sets 7-5, 6-3 against a man who had lost both of their previous encounters. These were the days when Murray, No.12 seed that year, lived and died by the drop-shot, and some of them were plain suicidal. He hung tough to take the third set to a tie-break and the tide had turned as just over half an hour later it was two sets all. The 22-year-old Gasquet seemed vanquished, but could Murray beat the clock?
The canny Frenchman took a comfort break to eat up an extra few minutes, but at 9.29pm in the SW19 twilight, Murray emerged victorious, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-4. Alas, Rafael Nadal was lying in wait just over 36 hours later.
At the tender age of 14, Laura Robson became the first British player since Annabel Croft in 1985 to win the Wimbledon girls’ singles title, defeating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. No.1 Court was packed to the rafters with fans looking to watch someone other than the Williams sisters (busy contesting the women’s singles and winning the women’s doubles on Centre Court that day) and desperate for some home-grown success.
Robson’s win over the no.3 seed (who would go on to capture the crown 12 months later) capped an amazing run. She defeated soon-to-be big names Melanie Oudin and Bojana Jovanovski in straight sets and then held her nerve despite the pressure of the expectant crowd to take glory in the final. Her win earned her a wildcard for the main draw the following year, which she made the most of, pushing one-time world No.5 Daniela Hantuchova before falling in three sets.
After 10 days of watching Serena Williams sail majestically through the draw, her semi-final against Elena Dementieva was determined to throw a spanner in the works. Williams was forced to chase, scrap and battle for every point of her 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 win. It was the longest women’s semi-final in the Open era at Wimbledon.
Williams is used to this winning Grand Slam titles business – she had 10 of them already at the time and was about to go on and win her 11th.
The quality of the ball striking throughout the match was at times breath-taking from both women. Few can live with Williams from the baseline but Dementieva was giving as good as she got and moving her rival from corner to corner and then out into farthest reaches of Centre Court. The decider alone lasted more than an hour as first Dementieva held a match point and then, 23 minutes later, Williams got her racket on a match-winning opportunity.
When Dementieva’s final backhand sailed wide of the line, the crowd rose as one to applaud. They had not expected a spectacle like this.
Roger Federer became tennis's greatest men's champion, watched by a legion of champions, as he beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14 in 4hrs 16mins to claim his sixth Wimbledon crown. It was also a record 15th Grand Slam title for the Swiss master, overhauling the total of Pete Sampras who was in the Royal Box along with fellow legends Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver. It was a truly momentous climax to the 2009 Championships as the 27-year-old Swiss became the most successful man in the sport.
Sampras, previous holder of that title, had been an unannounced surprise visitor to Wimbledon – where he has not been seen since 2002. The American arrived three games into the contest, but then sat as enraptured as the rest of the crowd as the two gladiators battled through 77 games, the most seen at any Wimbledon final.
Federer's ace count passed the 50 mark and then, finally, it was Roddick who cracked in the 30th game of the set. Three mishits off the frame indicated he was fatigued and when Federer was offered the first Championship point he grabbed it eagerly, leaping into the air with joy as another Roddick mishit sailed long.
Over recent years, whenever play at The Championships was affected or even washed out entirely by rain it produced an inevitable outpouring of frustration.
So when, on the afternoon of 17 May 2009, Wimbledon finally unveiled its long-awaited Centre Court roof – three years in the assembly and nine long years in the planning - the timing proved to be perfect. As the 3,000-ton construction began its eight-minute closing procedure, the weather lent a helping hand by sprinkling on the proceedings.
A set of mixed doubles was played out between the husband and wife team of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf took on Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters. Despite only having one Slam between them at the time compared with the 30 that their opponents could muster, Henman and Clijsters won 7-6. Agassi then edged Henman 6-4 before Clijsters defeated Graf by the same score. So impressive was the Belgian, who had retired from tennis in favour of marriage and motherhood, that then-chairman of Wimbledon, Tim Phillips, promptly offered her a wild card for the upcoming Championships.
This was politely declined – "hopefully, next year", she said – but this glittering day proved to be a defining moment for Clijsters, who resumed her career brilliantly and won the US Open a mere four months later.
History was finally made at 5.19pm on Monday 29 June 2009, when Amelie Mauresmo struck the first service under the cover of "5,200 square metres of a very strong, flexible, translucent waterproof material".
As the Centre Court crowd sat and stared at the skies on Monday, suddenly the roof started to move. At 4.39pm, the two halves of the structure started to roll towards the middle of the court to gasps and cheers from below. And then it stopped. "I hope someone’s kept the receipt," said one wag in the stands. Surely it cannot be broken? No, actually, the roof closes in the three stages with a slight pause between each phase. By 4.46pm the roof was finally shut and there was a huge round of applause. Outside, the drizzle had stopped.
At 5.11pm, the players returned to thunderous applause. Mauresmo, the first on court, could not take her eyes off the roof above her – and the floodlights that had now warmed up and were shining brightly – as she began her warm-up routine. Her opponent Dinara Safina meanwhile kept her eyes firmly fixed on the grass beneath her feet and tried not to let the moment of history distract her, on her way to victory and a place in the quarter-finals.
On 29 June 2009, the last match scheduled for the day on Centre Court was a fourth-round men’s singles tie featuring Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka. The pair would have the honour of contesting the first competitive match to be played in its entirety under the Centre Court roof.
Some 50 feet below 3,000 tons of structural steel and Tenara architectural fibre, the lights illuminated the famous turf on an overcast evening and 15,000 spectators witnessed Dunblane-born Murray battle with high-calibre Swiss opponent Wawrinka.
Just as it looked as if this unique evening’s entertainment was coming to an end Wawrinka pounced at 5-5 in the fourth set to break and then serve out the set 7-5 to force a decider, breaking another record at The Championships with the contest destined to go on later than any other Wimbledon match.
Breaks were exchanged to open the fifth set but in the end it was Murray who emerged victorious, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 ending it all on service at precisely 10.39 pm securing his place both in the quarter-finals and in a new chapter in Wimbledon Centre Court’s unrivalled history.