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8:20PM

CBSSports.com: Roof closes just for show on day of surprises

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- It isn't a $146 million curiosity piece after all. The new roof over Wimbledon's Centre Court finally was closed Saturday, although for no good reason other than to prove it could be closed.

You have a new toy; you have to play with it.

Long after the last scheduled match, just about 8 p.m., when there still was plenty of light and not enough rain, the huge accordion-like structure was activated.

Andy Murray, the Scot, the guy who might give Great Britain its first men's singles champion in 73 years, had finished beating Victor Troicki, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Andy Roddick had won his match. Venus Williams had won hers.

And it was long after 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, who was out there on Court 3, gave reason to believe America might have a female champion other than Venus or Serena Williams.

Maybe the people who run Wimbledon were weary of the complaints. Maybe they felt taunted by Mother Nature, a fickle lady who usually provides rain every year for the All England Championships but has failed miserably this time.

So, following the Murray-Troicki competition, with only a few hundred of the 14,000-plus fans still in their seats, the roof was closed and the announcement was made that, if needed, because of advancing darkness or actual rain, a match from Court 1 might be shifted to Centre Court.

Except the match on Court 1, between Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, the No. 10 seed, and Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain already was in the fourth set and headed for a fifth.

It would be like moving a game from Citi Field to Yankee Stadium in the seventh inning.

In the end, the match stayed where it was -- the fans over on Court 1 would have been unhappy, indeed -- and Ferrero surprised Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Not as big a surprise as the 5-6 Oudin, playing her first Wimbledon. She beat a disoriented Jelena Jankovic, affected by the heat, 6-7 (8-10), 7-5, 6-2.

Jankovic had started the year as No. 1 in the rankings and had reached the finals of the 2008 U.S. Open. She's a world-class player. But Oudin, from the suburbs of Atlanta, literally ran her around the court.

"She's a short girl, and she runs a lot," Jankovic said of Oudin. "She doesn't have any weapons, but she doesn't make many mistakes. She made me hit a lot of balls, and I just couldn't do it. I didn't have enough power and strength to hit my shots."

Jankovic needed medical treatment after the first set. "I felt dizzy, and I thought I was going to end up in the hospital," she said. She also needed to get a toe taped after the second set.

But Oudin (pronounced Ooh-DAHN; she is of French descent "but totally American") didn't need to hear excuses -- only her own excited squeals after her biggest victory in 15 months as pro.

"I went out there and actually did well just thinking she was any other player," said Oudin, "and it was any other match, and I was at any other tournament."

As they say, anything that works.

Introduced to tennis along with twin sister Katherine by their grandmother, Melanie watched Venus and Serena from Wimbledon on TV when she was 7 years old and announced she would be there someday.

She made it through qualifying, saving two match points in her opening match a couple of weeks ago. And she has made it through three rounds despite her ranking (123rd).

"I've not played her," Venus Williams said, "but I was on the Fed Cup team with her. Just so enthusiastic about tennis. [For the United States] it's super good news."

Things weren't so super good for Svetlana Kuznetsova, the French Open winner, who was a loser. And then there was Jesse Levine, along with Roddick the only American male who made it to the third round but who, unlike Roddick, didn't make it out of the third round.

Everything seemed to work for Venus, a 6-0, 6-4 winner over Carla Suarez Navarro, Venus' 17th straight successful match as she tries for a third consecutive women's title at Wimbledon, but the talk later was that the roof had worked. As if Roddick cared about that.

"There's a roof," Roddick said. "If it rains, it closes. Beyond that, we might as well guess what color socks someone is wearing. I think the common joke is they haven't had to use it yet. All this money, and the weather's been nice."

It was fine when Roddick defeated Jurgen Melzer, 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in their third-rounder. Clouds appeared and the temperature dropped as Murray and Troicki were about to move on, having received instructions about procedure dealing with the roof. Ten minutes are needed to close, 20 minutes to activate the air conditioning.

"I obviously wanted to finish the match as quickly as possible," said Murray, who did that, requiring only an hour and a half. "It would have been a nice bit of history, I guess, the first to play under the roof. I wasn't worried about it. I enjoy playing indoors."

There probably won't be any indoor tennis at Wimbledon until at least Wednesday, according to the forecast, but then there's a chance of rain every day through the end of the tournament. Maybe that roof will get used -- maybe a lot.

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http://www.cbssports.com/tennis/story/11900551
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
9:55AM

RealClearSports: 'Murraymania' Takes Hold at Wimbledon

By Art Spander

He's from Scotland, but the English will accept him -- if he wins Wimbledon. Which no British male, English, Scottish, Welsh or whatever has done in 73 years.

Andy Murray is the third seed and the first story. The tabloids had dozens of pieces on Michael Jackson reading front to back. But back to front, which is how the sporting public treats tabs, it was Andy Murray, or as they call it here, "Murraymania.''

Sports news in England is reported subjectively and patriotically. Losers are "brave.'' Winners "fly the flag." There haven't been many flags flying at Wimbledon, and so Murray, who in lesser tournaments has beaten Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, is being touted, idolized and treated like the royalty he someday may meet.

Already, Murray has received congratulations from Queen Elizabeth for his win two weeks ago at Queen's, the warmup for Wimbledon, something he noted on his Twitter page.

"Got a nice letter from the Queen,'' he tweeted, "for doing well winning Queen's. Put it away from the bills.''

Murray lost a set in his opening match to Robert Kendrick, an American, which caused great distress among the journalists, who in England root as intensely for the locals as Americans root against theirs, with maybe the exception of Tiger Woods.

But Murray looked sharp in the second round and as he prepared to face a Serb named Viktor Troicki in the third, Murray had all England (and presumably Scotland) at his feet. Which is better than having them at one's neck, the usual fate of British athletes who sink to becoming brave losers.

"Murray in a hurry as the path to glory opens wide,'' was the headline in the Times, which limited itself to one gushing piece. As opposed to The Sun, which on the back page carried the headline, ‘YOU CAN KISS MY FEET,'' a tale of him losing wagers to his coach, one of the payments requiring pushups and a smack on the sneakers.

Murray very well might face Federer in the finals, which could even bring out the Queen, who hasn't been to Wimbledon since 1977, when Virginia Wade of England was champion. Her majesty has made no secret of her dislike of tennis, but she may feel compelled to be high-class royalty in the Royal Box.

On Friday, that area was occupied by such as Mr. and Mrs. Rajesh Batra, Lady and Sir Ian Miskin and the Rt. Honorable The Baroness Dean of Thorton-le-Fylde. Not bad, but hardly like Thursday when one of the guests was Dr. Iary Ravoarimanana of Madagascar, who has written a book on molecular phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the sporting lemurs.

What sport the lemurs play is unknown, but apparently it's not tennis. Otherwise they'd be entered at Wimbledon, perhaps as Murray, or multiple champions, Federer and Serena Williams. Each was a third-round winner Friday, when sun the continued to shine and the very expensive new roof over Centre Court remained unused.

Federer, saying he thought it was his best match of the tournament, even while losing a set, beat Philipp Kohlscriber, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. Serena was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Roberta Vinci in a match that took just a bit more than an hour.

For Serena, the obligatory debriefing, in which she brought out one of those small, plastic Gatorade squeeze bottles and plunked it down just to her right, label carefully facing the front, was not so much about tennis as about Michael Jackson.

The British press needs angles, not to be confused with angles of volleys or drop shots. Wimbledon coverage alternates on two BBC channels from noon until darkness. Newspapers may not be flourishing here, but they're around in large numbers, and the competition among them is very real.

So, the very first question to Serena was: "What did Michael Jackson mean to you personally, and would you think about dedicating today's victory perhaps?''

Serena was both respectful and truthful. "No,'' she began, answering the second question first. "I mean he was great guy, a complete icon. Words just can't express my shock and horror . . . I think Michael Jackson, everyone listens to his music. It's like you think of the Beatles, you think of Elvis Presley, you think of Michael Jackson. Those are just lifetime icons that I've never forgotten.''

As far as the tennis? "I'm happy to have gotten my match over. I'm happy to have won.''

She'll win some more. As will her sister, Venus, trying for a third straight championship. But in Britain they really only care about Andy Murray. He's from Scotland. And, should he become champion, he also would be from heaven.
As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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http://www1.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/06/26/murraymania_takes_hold_at_wimbledon_96411.html
© RealClearSports 2009
4:33PM

CBSSports.com: Serena's win secondary to remembering Michael Jackson

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams handled herself beautifully on the court and no less elegantly in the post-match interview Friday. On an afternoon when even at Wimbledon tennis seemed less important than a day earlier, her words were as impressive as her shots.

The news was unavoidable. In Britain, Michael Jackson was even larger than in the United States. He was to appear in a 50-show run at London's 02 Arena starting July 13, for which $85 million in tickets had been sold.

Nine of the first 11 pages in the Times of London dealt with Jackson's death. The headline in three-inch high letters in the 3.5-million circulation Sun proclaimed 'JACKO DEAD.' It was impossible not to know.

And Serena knew.

"I'm always online," she said."I'm always looking at the latest news until I fall asleep. So I saw it fairly early."

What we saw Friday on another warm, clear afternoon -- one that again mocked the idea of building a roof over Centre Court -- was Serena at her workmanlike best out on Court 2. She was a deliberate third-round winner over Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 6-4.

Then, hit by questions no one might have imagined at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, she provided answers both heartfelt and insightful.

Not that Serena, ever conscious of the commercial world and her endorsements, didn't take advantage of her presence. She sat down at the desk where the microphones sit and adroitly plunked down a squeeze bottle with a Gatorade label quite visible.

"What did Michael Jackson mean to you personally?" was the first query. Nothing about forehands or foresight. Only about a nearly mythic entertainer. "Would you think about dedicating today's victory, perhaps?"

Serena was prepared. She knows Wimbledon. She knows she's a celebrity, even if she tries to deny it.

"No," was her response, meaning the dedication. "I mean, he was a great guy, a complete icon. Words can't express my shock and horror. Just thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. It's just a terrible, terrible thing."

Williams met Jackson some time ago. She reacted the way others react to her, emotional, uncontrolled.

"I think he was the ultimate celebrity," she said. "I think any celebrity who met Michael Jackson was completely in awe. I know I was. I kept thinking, 'Oh my God, oh my God. It's him, it's him. So for me, he was the celebrity of all celebrities."

And then the silly stuff. Not from Serena, who has won this event twice and has been runner-up twice, including last year when she was beaten by older sister Venus. From the media, which was looking for any angle.

"Can you moonwalk?" someone wondered. Her quick answer was in the negative.

It was another walk that almost threw Serena. There's a new Court 2 at Wimbledon. This one is farther away from Centre Court grandstand and locker rooms. The other, nicknamed "The Graveyard of Champions," because of all the upsets, was noisy and cramped for the fans.

Serena was six minutes late for the scheduled 1 p.m. start. She was waiting for the normal escort, and it never arrived.

"Well, I thought someone was gonna come get me," was her explanation. "Then I figured, well, maybe I just have to report. I didn't know what to do. So I was waiting, warming up. Waiting and waiting.

"Finally, I said, I'm just going to go out. I'm used to someone coming and saying, 'OK, let's go.'"

Serena is the No. 2 seed, but there have been times when Roger Federer, a five-time champion, has had to play on Court 2. He didn't like it, felt it was beneath him. Serena, on the other hand, didn't care. Although she said, "I don't think I played great today," it took only 1 hour, 7 minutes to move to the second week.

"It's not a court for Roger," she said of Court 2, "but it's definitely a court for me. But I haven't won Wimbledon five times. I really enjoyed the court. It had the challenge system [an instant-replay camera]. It worked for me. I actually really liked it."

The atmosphere is different. Those are the fans who queue to enter, the ones who have only grounds passes. "It's a big difference," she affirmed. "The fans are more involved. It seems more verbal. And it's fun."

The fun ended with talk about Michael Jackson, a sobering dialogue.

"Well, I think everyone listens to his music," he said. "It's like you think of the Beatles, you think of Elvis Presley, you think of Michael Jackson. Those are lifetime icons that I've never forgotten.

"I've been following him. He's not been well, from what I read. He's been in and out of the hospital. So I wasn't super shocked. But it's Michael Jackson. He's the greatest entertainer, for me, of all time."

Spoken by surely one of the great women's tennis players of all time.

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http://www.cbssports.com/tennis/story/11896933
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
8:51PM

CBSSports.com: Victorious Roddick posts up, beats the press

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- The challenge came after the match, which is often the case at Wimbledon. Andy Roddick had won, but now he was being asked what he thought of the Shaquille O'Neal trade.

At least by the Americans in the interview room.

The Brits only wanted to know where Andy might dine in London. They didn't have much of a chance.

Not with a hoops guy like Roddick. He likes to eat. He prefers to talk basketball. Or baseball.

Andy won his second-round match Thursday, defeating Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. A stumble in the third set, a figurative one that is, but nothing that couldn't be and wasn't corrected.

"A win is a win," Roddick said. "The set I got broken, I had numerous break chances, and he got the one he had. I knew I was getting the better of him. Probably played my best set by far in the fourth set."

These are fine days for Andy. He was married in April to model Brooklyn Decker. The minor injuries that have affected him at times seem to have disappeared. Two others from his hometown, Boca Raton, Fla., Mardy Fish and Jesse Levine, still are in the Wimbledon draw. And the media continue to ask his opinions about the NBA.

The man knows his basketball.

"Well, Griffin is going one," he said of the draft, still several hours away, "and then it's going to be interesting to see what Minnesota does. I think they have, what, five, six, 18 and 28?"

It will be interesting to see what Andy Roddick does. He is two months from his 27th birthday. The years keep moving. Roddick for so long has been the one constant of American tennis, successor to the great ones, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Jim Courier.

Roddick has a Grand Slam title, the 2003 U.S. Open championship. He has two seconds, runner-up to Roger Federer here at Wimbledon in 2004 and '05. What he or American tennis doesn't have is a replacement.

"I'd love nothing more than for some 17- or 18-year-old to pop out and get in there, in the top 15 or top 10," Roddick said. "But you can't deal in hypotheticals."

Was it ironic or simply interesting that on another warm day at Wimbledon, Andy and 28-year-old Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian, standard bearers for their nations the past many years, each were winners?

It was expected of Roddick, seeded No. 6, but not of Hewitt -- a former Wimbledon champion -- who, having been idled by hip surgery the end of 2008, is No. 56 in the world rankings.

Hewitt upset No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-5, 7-5, if you can describe as an upset a loss by a 6-foot-7 clay-court specialist to a player whose flat shots stay low on grass.

"I don't think it's surprising," was Roddick's observation. "He's certainly capable of playing very well on this surface."

Very well, indeed. Hewitt was the Wimbledon men's singles winner in 2002.

A post-match session with Roddick is as fascinating as watching him hit those 140 mph serves. He is quick-witted and aggressive, virtues that are advantageous on court and in the interview room. He can fire one at you in both places.

There's an English singer-songwriter named Rick Astley, who Roddick, according to his Twitter, had on his iPod.

"I busted my wife on some of her crappy music," Andy said, "and she brought up Rick Astley. I can't deny it. It's in my iPod. And I'll bet it's in your iPod, too, so shut up."

When a Brit told Roddick, "You can get arrested in this country for having Rick Astley on your iPod," Andy responded, "You can get arrested in my country for lying under oath, so ..."

So what does he think of the Phoenix Suns sending Shaq to the Cleveland Cavaliers?

"Well," Roddick insisted, "it works both ways. I mean, Phoenix cuts dollars, and the Cavs have a big man. I mean, it was pretty apparent in the playoffs with Dwight Howard [from Orlando] that that was the part missing. Keep him healthy. I think he and [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas will be able to spell each other.

"There's going to an adjustment period with a 7-3, 350-pounder in the middle ... but it's only going to make the team better."

What will make Andy Roddick better? Where might he be had Roger Federer not arrived at virtually the same time, Federer twice at Wimbledon and once in the U.S. Open beating him in finals?

It's one of those intriguing questions that can be debated forever. But you can't deal in the hypothetical. Andy told us that. And a lot more.

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http://www.cbssports.com/tennis/story/11892894
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
9:22AM

RealClearSports: Wimbledon Is In a 'Grass' by Itself

WIMBLEDON, England -- It's different here, even if the language is the same. Forget that idea the Brits are charming, diplomatic if you will. This is the original place where people tell it like it is, and no apologies to Howard Cosell -- or at least, how they think it is.

It was the third day of Wimbledon, the oldest of sporting competitions, going back to the 1870s, and the sun was shining -- that new roof over Centre Court still is unused -- and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club grounds were chock-a-block with fans, more than 40,000 of them.


Roger Federer and Serena Williams, as expected, won their second-round matches on this fine Wednesday and Maria Sharapova, still working her way back from that shoulder injury, lost hers.

Tennis on grass courts. A festival more than a sporting event.

The desire is to get tickets for the semifinals or finals, still more than a week away, but the best of Wimbledon is found in the early rounds, when the weather is fine and matches literally are taking place at every one of the 19 courts. It's a show worthy of anything on the stages of the West End theaters.

It's different here. The ad for Sure deodorant on the car of the District Line train shows a woman with an upraised arm, clutching a pole with the words, "...twice the protection against sweat." Not perspiration. Not wetness. Sweat.

They don't sweat the use of prepositions. The sign at an intersection near the tennis complex tells motorists there is "No waiting in Bathgate Road," while another nearby warns "No alcohol on the stands.''

If baseball were popular here, would a walk would mean putting a runner "in" first base?

What we call an ATM, they call a cash machine, not to be confused with Pat Cash, who was a machine of sorts when he won men's singles in 1987. What we describe as a cell phone, they list as mobile phone. A seafood market remains a fishmonger.

And what would some states' beverage control units think of giving away small cups of beer, "Honey Dew, the United Kingdom's organic beer," to people walking the mile from the Southfields station to the Wimbledon grounds?

Serena Williams drinks something else. At least in public. Gatorade, or as promoted in those new commercials, "G." When Serena, the No. 2 seed, sat down for an interview after an easy, 6-2, 6-1, triumph over Jarmila Groth, she was wearing an orange T-shirt with a Nike swoosh logo large enough to cover Texas.

Then from her gym bag she lifted a bottle of "G" and placed it near the microphone, as to be better seen on television.

The sports drink is distributed in Britain, but not as widely as, say, Twinings tea.

At age 27, winner of 10 Grand Slam championships, Serena is creating a television script of her life. "I call it 'my treatment,' so I'm working on my treatment now," she said. "I was going to do it Tuesday, but I started watching 'Dexter' and got sidetracked."

She's missed a few forehands in her life, now Serena has to worry about missing deadlines?

What Wimbledon has been missing early on is compelling stories. The roof has been a non-issue. Except for Sharapova, the favorites won. Maybe that's why in this country of legalized gambling an unfounded report a match may have been fixed took on a life of its own.

An Austrian named Jurgen Melzer defeated Wayne Odesnik, an American, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, which, since Melzer is seeded, if at No. 26, and Odesnik is not, shouldn't have been terribly surprising.

But just before the match began, the bookmaker Betfair said it received more than six times as many wagers as it normally would, and Betfair spokesman Mark Davies said the odds on Melzer "shortened significantly."

There was a simple explanation. One of the television commentators, apparently for the BBC, pointed out before the first shot that Odesnik had a thigh injury. You can just picture the gamblers in the pubs or at home rubbing their hands today and greedily laying down a few quid on Melzer.

Betfair received about $980,000 in wagers on the match, Davies said; the average for a first-round match at Wimbledon is less than $163,000.

"It's being reported as potential corruption, but I don't see it that way at all," Davies told The Associated Press. "I doubt that there was any wrongdoing."

But there was plenty of hyperventilating, worry if you will. Or as it's described in England, people getting a twist in their knickers. Maybe Serena could work it into her script.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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http://www1.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/06/24/wimbledon_is_in_a_grass_by_itself_96408.html
© RealClearSports 2009