Lots of rain, little tennis at Wimbledon

Monday's rain at Wimbledon meant no matches completed, 17 suspended and 47 postponed.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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This place needs a roof. A retractable cover for Centre Court at Wimbledon is planned, but that was small consolation on the first day of the tournament on Monday, when rain permitted only 30 minutes of tennis. That meant no matches completed, 17 suspended and 47 postponed. Because of the backlog, defending champion Venus Williams and top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo will wait until at least Wednesday to play. "We'll all be used to this by the end of the fortnight, I'm sure," said James Blake, one of 94 players who waited in vain to take the court. Precipitation has been a particularly persistent problem in recent years, with the 2004 tournament one of the wettest ever. Retractable roof Help is on the way, at least for Centre Court: Work on a retractable roof will begin shortly after this year's tournament, with four holding platforms already in place for cranes. The project will blend modern and traditional elements, with a translucent roof covering a stadium which opened in the 1920s. Signs explaining the timetable and design are displayed around the All England Club. But Wimbledome won't be done until 2009. In the meantime, the forecast calls for the chance of more days like yesterday, when three-time defending champion Roger Federer was interrupted in his bid for a record 42nd consecutive grass-court victory while leading France's Richard Gasquet 6-3 1-2. Martina Hingis, mounting a career comeback this year, took to the Wimbledon lawn for the first time since 2001 and hit the shot of the day. She charged forward to chip a half volley at ankle level for a winner and led Olga Savchuk of Ukraine 6-2 when their match was halted. US Open champion Kim Clijsters led Vera Zvonareva 5-4. Austria's Jurgen Melzer was two points from winning the first set, leading France's Nicolas Mahut 6-5 40-all when their match was halted. Tennis briefly The tournament started with a 59-minute rain delay, followed by a brief outbreak of tennis. For the rest of the day, the weather alternated between drizzles and downpours. With the grass courts empty, except for the tarp tents, which covered them, the players' restaurant was packed. Some slept and others read, while French Open champion Rafael Nadal stood holding a tray of pasta, looking for a place to sit. Britain's Andy Murray wasn't scheduled to play but waited for a chance to practice. He eventually gave up and left. "The last thing you want to be doing is hanging around for five or six hours doing nothing," he said. Unseeded American Vince Spadea looked at the rain as a promising omen. The only time he made it past the second round was in 2004, when two days were washed out. "It rained like every day that year," Spadea said. "So I'm liking the deja vu." Fans sought refuge from the damp, chilly conditions under brollies and in souvenir shops, well accustomed to the routine. The longest line was at the new Wimbledon museum. Tournament officials provided periodic weather updates on the public-address system, trying to sound optimistic. But after a wait of 5 1/2 hours, an announcer informed fans play was suspended for the night. (AP)