Wimbledon Court 1: The biggest change this year looks set to transform the Championships
Wimbledon have always pursued greatness so it comes as no surprise that, following the success of the Centre Court roof, they would dig deep into their financial reserves to build a roof over Court One
Venus Williams understands better than most the frustrations that bad weather can bring for players at Wimbledon, so it was fitting that the five-times singles champion was one of the first to experience playing under the new retractable roof over No 1 Court.
The roof will be in use at the Championships for the first time this summer, but Williams had a sneak preview of it when she took part in the test event last month along with Kim Clijsters, Martina Navratilova, Jamie Murray, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Cash and John McEnroe.
Speaking at the No 1 Court Celebration, where a packed stadium enjoyed an uplifting afternoon of tennis and music, Williams said that having a second roof at the All England Club would make a major difference to e Championships.
“You’re going to see the tournament progress nicely,” Williams said. “I remember my first time playing here and I played on No 1 Court. I played on Saturday in the tournament instead of Monday as scheduled. That was six days waiting to play, so you are definitely going to see a huge difference in getting the matches through.”
The most obvious benefit of having the extra roof is the guarantee of a full day’s play for spectators, both in the stadium and on television. The Centre Court roof was opened in 2009 and has helped to ensure that the tournament finishes on time. With two roofs in operation, it should now be possible to play all the singles matches under cover from the quarter-finals onwards in the event of exceptionally bad weather in the second week.
However, Wimbledon is still committed to the Championships remaining a day-time outdoor event, so there are no plans to introduce night sessions. As far as the All England Club is concerned, a perfect tournament would see no matches played under the roofs.
All the players at the celebration event agreed on the raised noise levels under the roof. Murray added: “I guess if the roof’s closed the ball travels through the air easier. It’s easier to play obviously because the conditions were less variable without the wind and sun and rain, so I think it’s obviously nicer to play under those conditions. There’s less to worry about, but it’s an outdoor tournament so hopefully we won’t have to use it that much.”
The current No 1 Court was opened in 1997. The installation of the roof was part of a three-year project which began in 2016 and has been completed on time and within budget.
Because of the circular shape of the stadium, the retractable roof is bigger than Centre Court’s. Each of the 11 moveable trusses are 75 metres long and weigh 100 tonnes, while the fabric for the roof would actually cover 38 courts. One of the benefits of the size of the roof is that there was room to install the air-cooling equipment on top of it, whereas the equivalent machinery for Centre Court is sited on the other side of Somerset Road.
Wimbledon has revised its roof protocol. Matches played under the roofs that are suspended because of the 11pm curfew will restart the following day with the roof open, unless there is bad weather. In another change, matches on the schedule without a designated court (“to be arranged” matches) will be completed, where possible, under the roofs.
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