8:56PM Murray's marathon, roof closing mark historic day at Wimbledon

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

WIMBLEDON, England -- Andy Murray received his usual standing ovation, and the new roof at Centre Court got an unusual one. Overhead, under lights, with Britannia ruling and the Williams sisters rolling, this 123rd Wimbledon made history.

When Murray finally defeated Stanislas Wawrinka, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, it was 10:38 p.m., more than an hour later than any tennis ever had been played at Wimbledon, where people once believed in the civilized idea of holding competition in daylight.

Until Monday, no match had gone beyond 9:35 p.m., which is when a women's doubles match ended in 1981. But now, with the roof and the lights below that roof, it's all changed. Play once started would continue until a winner was determined.

That took 3 hours, 57 minutes. The pubs were getting ready to close.

"It was pretty special," said Murray, who fell to his knees. "I thought Stan played a great match. I'm pretty sure this is the latest finish at Wimbledon."

He's got that right.

"Always when you play indoors, the atmosphere is great," he continued. "When you have 15,000 people cheering for you, it's fantastic."

Long before, Andy Roddick joined Serena and Venus as the U.S. entries in the quarterfinals. Although Roddick's match started at roughly the same time as Murray's, it finished two hours earlier.

If it didn't happen at Wimbledon on the long day's journey into night -- indoor tennis, tennis after dark, Ana Ivanovic injuring her thigh and tearfully pulling out against Venus, Amelie Mauresmo returning to her days of gagging leads, Lleyton Hewitt losing the first two sets and winning the match, the temperature getting up there in Miami territory -- it's probably never going to happen.

At last the roof, which costs 80 million pounds ($146 million), came into play, although truly it wasn't needed. But other than the glorious quest by Murray to become the first Brit in 73 years to win men's singles, the roof has been all anyone has talked or written about.

So as the thermometer climbed almost to 90 and the humidity grew more oppressive, it was a given rain was coming. The first drops fell around 4:35 p.m., and after the tarps -- or, as they're called here, the covers -- were rolled out on Centre Court, the sellout crowd began staring upward.

It didn't matter that it wasn't raining hard enough to delay play on some of the outside courts. The Mauresmo-Dinara Safina match on Centre Court was halted in the second set. Suddenly, the two sides of the translucent roof began moving toward each other. The sellout crowd stood and cheered, as it would later for Murray's comeback.

Radio Wimbledon even gave an account -- dare it be described as play-by-play -- of the roof being employed.

"The roof is moving!" the announcer declared. "It's a privilege to be here on Centre Court at this moment! It's almost shut now! It's agonizingly close to being shut!"

After it was shut and the announcer shut up, at least about the roof, Safina ripped a passing shot for the first point under Wimbledon's temporary dome.

Safina, No. 1 in rankings and seedings, came back from the loss of a first set and being down 3-1 in the third to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The precipitation, slight as it was, had stopped. Would the roof be opened again for Murray's match against Wawrinka?

Not at all, and that choice allowed play to continue into the dead of night, because of the lights, and allowed Murray, the No. 3 seed, to overtake Wawrinka, the player from Switzerland who isn't named Roger Federer.

Just to prove the lunacy of the process, while Murray and Wawrinka went at it indoors, 100 yards away, Roddick was beating Tomas Berdych, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3, in the sunlight falling upon Court 1.

Not that he had any control over the situation, or that it affected him, Roddick was asked whether he thought they pulled the trigger too early on closing the roof. Tournament officials have decreed that, once a shot is hit while the roof is in place, then it stays in place through a match, even if there's no rain.

"Here is what I think about it," Roddick said. "If it's raining, they have a pretty good little weather system forecast thingy down in the magic little office there. ... I say if it is even sprinkling, at the time, and it looks ominous, if you have a roof, use it."

So it was used.

What Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champ, couldn't do after getting thumped by Venus in the first set was use her left leg. In the opening game of the second set, Ana apparently pulled a thigh muscle, began to cry and then retired with Williams winning, 6-1, 1-0.

"I felt like I wasn't given a fair chance to fight," Ivanovic said.

Venus has won 18 straight matches and 31 straight sets at Wimbledon and seeks a third consecutive women's single title and sixth overall here.

The Sister Act still is proving newsworthy -- Serena Williams, on the other side of the draw, was a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Daniela Hantuchova.

"I was definitely out there not to stay too long," said Serena. "I'm a Florida girl, so I was totally fine with the heat."

As was Wimbledon with a match after dark.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
9:11PM Second week, third round brings big tests, big answers

WIMBLEDON, England -- You could start with a pun, that with all the Russian women at Wimbledon, none of whom has won, it's over when it's "ova." You could start with the fact that Switzerland, famous for cheese and watches, has two men in the third round, while America, famous for who knows what, has only one.

Or you could start with the thought that the second week of the 123rd All England Lawn Tennis Championships has the potential to produce all sorts of tempting new stories but in the end undoubtedly will provide the same ones as in the past. With minor variations.

They're back Monday. Everybody who made it through the first week, made it to the fourth round, will be playing. After a day on which nobody played.

Which is why Wimbledon is Wimbledon. Or, more accurately, why the Borough of Merton, where the town and club are located, is what it is.

The residents need a break from the cars and crowds. The grass courts need a break from the players. The players need a break from each other, although they did practice, and from the media.

The other Grand Slams, the Australian, the French, the U.S. Open, go on through Sunday. Not Wimbledon, unless rain has tormented play earlier in the event.

That hasn't been the case, as you are aware. The new roof over Centre Court was closed only once, Saturday evening, but no one took the court.

In Sunday's Observer, Will Buckley, not the only one weary of tales of the roof, alluded to the television network and complained that the BBC "obsesses over a cover story that tells us nothing."

The third-round matches will tell us a great deal:

Whether Andy Murray, the No. 3 seed, the Scotsman, the great hope to end Britain's 73-year silence in men's singles (no champion since Fred Perry in 1936), can get past the other guy from Switzerland, Stanislas Wawrinka.

Whether Andy Roddick, the last U.S. male remaining in singles, has enough game to beat Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, whom Roddick said is streaky, "rarely middle of the road. He's either real good or not so good. Right now you expect to get the best of him."

Whether Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old Munchkin from Marietta, Ga., outside Atlanta, can keep going on a miracle run that began three weeks ago when she survived two match points in the first round of qualifying and continued through a win over No. 5 Jelena Jankovic. Monday, the 5-foot-6 Oudin meets Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, out on Court 18, the quasi-big time.

The other results we take for granted, that Venus Williams, trying for a third straight Wimbledon title and sixth overall, will whip Ana Ivanovic, as in the 2007 semifinals. On a roll? Venus has won 17 straight matches here, 29 straight sets.

That Roger Federer of Switzerland will thump his pigeon, Robin Soderling of Sweden, whom he beat in the French final three weeks ago, improving his record against him to 10-0. That's perfect, if you were wondering.

Britain's in a dither. The national rugby team was beaten Saturday 28-25 in South Africa, a performance that earned the headline, "Brilliant Lions Succumb to Epic Defeat."

The Ashes, the historic cricket competition between England and Australia, resumes July 8 in Wales.

And Murray is looking very much as if he'll be around for the last day of Wimbledon.

"Ice-cool Murray a cert for final, say stars," was the back-pager in the Sunday Mail. That translates as John McEnroe, Boris Becker and John Lloyd, Chris Evert's ex, predicting Murray will be in the final against Federer.

"I'd obviously love to get to the final," said Murray, classically reticent, "but there is still a lot of tennis to be played." Substitute football for tennis, and it sounds like a sound bite on any given Sunday in the NFL.

Venus, too, was conversant in the cliches. "She's talented and she does everything well," Venus said of Ivanovic, who has slipped to No. 13 after briefly rising to first following her 2008 French Open win.

Federer insisted the second week of a Grand Slam is when the tournament gets interesting for him. "Not necessarily," Venus responded when asked her reaction. "We think different. I take it match by match and figure out whatever I need to figure out."

It was reported that Venus and sister Serena, also into the fourth round, have been e-mailing Melanie Oudin, although they are only acquaintances through the Fed Cup team.

"They say things like, 'You go girl,'" Cliff Klingbeil, a friend of the Oudin family, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Melanie can't believe the Williams sisters even know who she is."

We all know what Wimbledon is, the tennis tournament that takes a day off and comes back with a vengeance.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
8:20PM Roof closes just for show on day of surprises

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

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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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

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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© RealClearSports 2009
4:33PM Serena's win secondary to remembering Michael Jackson

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

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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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.