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Wimbledon's new roof, lights steal the show on Centre Court

By Howard Fendrich

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The roof on Centre Court closes during a break in play between Dinara Safina of Russia and Amelie Mauresmo of France on Monday.

Sang Tan, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WIMBLEDON, England — They played into the night on Centre Court, later than anyone ever had in Wimbledon's long history, and they played indoors, the first match contested entirely under the new roof.

And at 10:39 p.m. Monday, when No. 3-seeded Andy Murray of Britain finally finished off a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland to reach the quarterfinals at the All England Club, the partisan fans celebrated their guy's victory with quite a roar.

"It was pretty special," said Murray, who dropped to his knees when the match ended, then stood and swatted a ball straight up so hard it hit the roof.

No man from Britain has won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, and, like his countrymen, Murray — a 22-year-old from Scotland — is more interested in that sort of history than the sort he and Wawrinka made Monday.

Still, these circumstances were rather extraordinary, what with Centre Court's roof shut, the lights on and a chance to play the match until its rightful conclusion, no matter how late. That's never before been the case at Wimbledon, where unlike the U.S. Open, there never have been lighted courts, and matches often are stopped in progress because of darkness. Previously, no Centre Court point had been played later than 9:35 p.m.

"I'll have a pretty deep sleep after that one," Murray said.

At a tournament that began in 1877, not a single point had been contested indoors until earlier Monday, when a light sprinkle interrupted No. 1-ranked Dinara Safina's 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo. After the fifth game of the second set, the translucent roof above the main stadium was closed, and Safina and Mauresmo finished up underneath — even though by the time they resumed, the rain had stopped.

Because forecasts called for later showers (none arrived), organizers left the contraption sealed for Murray-Wawrinka, which turned out to be a fortuitous decision, even if Murray found the conditions "very, very heavy and very humid; sweating so much."

"When I finished, it was like I'd been in a bath," he said.

All in all, though, the day's last match provided far more excitement than the generally open-and-shut cases that dominated the rest of the fourth round.

Five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer won easily, as did two-time runner-up Andy Roddick and No. 4 Novak Djokovic. Venus Williams, like Federer chasing a sixth title at the All England Club, was way ahead when her opponent, former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, quit with a thigh injury. Williams' younger sister, Serena, herself a two-time Wimbledon champion, and No. 4 Elena Dementieva were never challenged in their straight-set victories.

One surprising run ended in the fourth round. Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old qualifier from Marietta, Ga., who never won a Grand Slam match before last week, lost to No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 7-5.

"It's always difficult to play someone who you don't know," said Radwanska, who did not appear to have any difficulty Monday, but might find the road rougher Tuesday.

That's when she will play in the quarterfinals against Venus Williams, who has won 18 consecutive matches at Wimbledon and is trying to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win the tournament three years in a row.

Tuesday's other matches are No. 2 Serena Williams against No. 8 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Dementieva against unseeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy, and Safina against unseeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany.

The men get a day off before their quarterfinals Wednesday, when the matchups will be No. 2 Federer vs. No. 22 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, Murray vs. 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, Djokovic vs. No. 24 Tommy Haas, and Roddick vs. 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, who lost the first two sets but came back to beat No. 23 Radek Stepanek 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

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