- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From combined dispatches

WIMBLEDON, England | Rhythmic clapping rang out on Centre Court, accompanied by not-so-staid chants of “Roof! Roof! Roof!”

Yes, indoor tennis has arrived at Wimbledon, more than a century after the tournament’s debut.

The new retractable roof over Centre Court was closed for the first time Monday after a light sprinkle halted play during the second set of a match between No. 1 Dinara Safina and 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo.

By the time the match resumed, the wet weather had disappeared, and action proceeded on other courts around the All England Club without the help of modern technology. Still, the novelty of it all created quite a buzz. The roof is making its debut atop a stadium that opened in the 1920s - and at a tournament that began in the 1870s.

“It’s a plus, definitely, for the tournament to be able to play. Of course, we haven’t seen really bad days so far in the tournament,” Mauresmo said after losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. “But I remember a few editions of Wimbledon when we would really have needed a roof. So it’s a good thing.”

The translucent roof allows natural light, in addition to floodlights that were switched on. The most discernible difference from the stands was the sound: There was an echo, not just when a ball came off a racket with a “thwack” but also from hand-clapping and the line judges’ yells of “out!”

Mauresmo said she thought the roof changed the playing conditions.

“The ball is flying a little bit more. That’s how I felt. And we both kind of took a little time to adjust,” Mauresmo said. “When the ball is in the air and when you have the overhead or stuff, it’s very bright.”

Last week, on the hottest of days, organizers moved part of the roof slightly to provide shade for those in the Royal Box. This time, they closed it fully and for the originally intended purpose - protection from the weather, which has been needed so often that the event’s official record book, “Wimbledon Compendium,” contains sections called “Days which have been completely rained off” and “First weeks badly interrupted by rain.”

Officials calm flu fears

Wimbledon officials played down swine flu fears after four ball boys and girls were asked to remain home because of flu symptoms.

The All England Club urged all visitors and personnel to stay away from the tournament if they develop any symptoms. The club stressed, however, there was no reason to suspect swine flu had reached the Grand Slam event.

“There’s no one that has swine flu,” All England Club spokesman Henry O’Grady said. “There are a couple of people that have flu symptoms, and as a result they’ve been asked to stay at home. … They haven’t been tested for swine flu, and they’re not going to be tested.”

O’Grady said he did not have any information about the staffers’ ages or whether they went to the same school.

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