Wimbledon 2011: The big kick-off…125th championship as we bring you reports from Daily Mail

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*Sunshine brings a good start to play at Wimbledon for the 125th All England Championships
*Rain this evening forces Andy Murray to play under the £100million retractable roof
*Murray Mount has been closed for the first time ever over health and safety fears as play for the day is called off

Wimbledon 2011

It was the first surprise result of Wimbledon fortnight – and a welcome one for the fans.

Crowds who had turned up prepared for the rain that had been forecast in fact spent the morning queuing in bright sunshine. But the optimistic start to the day was dampened later on as the clouds did their thing and forced officials on Centre Court to close the retractable roof.

The outlook for the start of the 125th All England Championships has been grim, with predictions of more downpours after heavy rain soaked London at the weekend.

Instead, it was shirtsleeves and sunhats early on among fans who appeared to be enjoying the return of the sunshine as they queued in Wimbledon Park to get in on the first day. But then the ‘brollies went up this evening as the showers started to fall.

The covers are pulled off Centre Court so that play can resume despite torrential rain outside - the first time it has ever happenedThe covers are pulled off Centre Court so that play can resume despite torrential rain outside – the first time it has ever happened

Sign of the times: Hardy fans on Murray Mount sit around a bench in the dying hope that there might be some more tennis for them to enjoySign of the times: Hardy fans on Murray Mount sit around a bench in the dying hope that there might be some more tennis for them to enjoy

Rain stops play? Not for these boy who slide down Murray Mount enjoying the slippery surfaceRain stops play? Not for these boy who slide down Murray Mount enjoying the slippery surface

Spectators cover up to try and keep dry on one of the courts in the vain hope that play will eventually be resumedSpectators cover up to try and keep dry on one of the courts in the vain hope that play will eventually be resumed

 

A couple shelter from the rain in Centre Court before the retractable roof kicks into action
Sheltering: Some fans huddle under an umbrella and waterproof to try and keep dry

Sitting it out: A couple shelter from the rain in Centre Court before the retractable roof kicks into action while others huddle under an umbrella and waterproof

 

Andy Murray's girlfriend, Kim Sears reacts as she sits alongside his mother Judy while he takes Centre Court against Spain's Gimeno-Traver in day oneAndy Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears reacts as she sits alongside his mother Judy while he takes Centre Court against Spain’s Gimeno-Traver in day one

Ball boys tied the covers this evening to stop the grass from getting wet in the hope that play can resume tomorrow
Ball boys tied the covers and swept water from the covers this evening to stop the grass from getting wet in the hope that play can resume tomorrow

Ball boys tied the covers and swept water from the covers this evening to stop the grass from getting wet in the hope that play can resume tomorrow

 

Making a dash: These spectators cover up as they leave the stadiums after heavy rain stopped play at WimbledonMaking a dash: These spectators cover up as they leave the stadiums after heavy rain stopped play at Wimbledon

Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said: ‘This is the first time we have had to shut off the big screen as this is the first time the roof has been used in these conditions.

‘Previous to the roof, of course, there would have been no play to watch on Centre anyway if it was rained off. The hill has been closed because of the slippery nature of the grass while it is so wet.

‘It is a health and safety issue. We just can’t have people slipping and sliding and falling off the thing and breaking their ankles. It’s different on the courts if there is a drizzle as they can sit on seats. We potentially could have large numbers of people slipping and sliding all over the place.

 

 

‘Even if the rain stops we won’t turn the big screen back on – that’s it I’m afraid. It’s regrettable but wise in view of the circumstances. We always anticipated that we would have to turn off the match for those on the hill if it rained.’

Those who were lucky enough to get onto the show courts were treated to a mesmerising display from Venus Williams – in the form of a strange white playsuit.

It was so wet on Murray Mount that fans took the opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere and slide their way to the bottom of the hill, but it has now been shut over health and safety fears. Enjoying the sunshine? There was no sign of the predicted rain as fans queued outside Wimbledon for tickets on Monday

Enjoying the sunshine? There was no sign of the predicted rain as fans queued outside Wimbledon for tickets on Monday

 

The sun shines on the hardy souls who queued this morning for a chance to see Andy Murray in actionThe sun shines on the hardy souls who queued this morning for a chance to see Andy Murray in action

 

 

Venus Williams during her match against Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova
Venus Williams during her match against Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova

Venus Williams chose a bizarre white playsuit for her match against Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amanmuradova

Venus Williams' outfit 'explodes' outwards as she serves to Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova
Williams manages to just about keep her modesty as she bends over after hitting a ball to Amanmuradova

During one of her serves, Venus Williams’ court wear shows just how flamboyant, blowing up looking like some it is concealing some 80s shoulder pads. As she bends over, however, it conceals very little

And hopes of a British victory remained high as Andy Murray prepares to takes to Centre Court against Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver – though if the weather turns he may have to play with Centre Court’s £100million roof closed.

Those not lucky enough to get in to watch the number four seed will have to be content with watching the action from outside on ‘Murray Mountain’ – formerly known as ‘Henman Hill’ – the area outside the club where spectators can watch the game on giant screens.

IT specialist Sam Bennett, 25, from Bristol, said: ‘We got here about 6am and we got in the queue straight away.

‘People try to run past you on the way to it, there’s some friendly competition, but we just strolled down, it’s all very relaxed. Inevitably we’re hoping for a Murray victory and that he can go all the way.’

She was joined by her friend, Lizzie Laessing, 26, also from Bristol, who said: ‘We’re optimistic for Andy – he’s looking smooth on court at the moment and he has had a recent turnaround in form.’

Among those queuing in the hope of getting a ticket were South African holidaymakers Debra Purvis and Maureen Klemp. Mrs Purvis was not backing Murray.

Crowds begin to assemble on 'Murray Mound' ahead of his first round match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver this evening Crowds begin to assemble on ‘Murray Mound’ ahead of his first round match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver this evening

Crowd control: Security staff form a barrier for the spectators before the rush to the outside courtsCrowd control: Security staff form a barrier for the spectators before the rush to the outside courts

Rafael Nadal opened the defence of his title against Michael Russel of the U.S.
Great Britain's Andy Murray on the practice courts

Rafael Nadal opened the defence of his title against Michael Russell of the U.S, while Andy Murray prepared to face Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Centre Court today

POLICE ALERT OVER STALKERS

A ‘Dirty Dozen’ of fixated fans have been warned to keep away from Wimbledon.

Photographs and descriptions of the 12 were distributed to security staff, police and officers in civilian clothes patrolling the streets outside.

Some of the fans have been known to follow players across the world.

Ground commander, Superintendent Pete Dobson, said: ‘There are a number of fixated individuals which we are fully aware of.’

He said most of the obsessive tennis fans were men who turned their unwanted attentions to women players.

The All England Club has written to those who are known to cause trouble, advising them not to try and enter the grounds.

One of those banned is believed to be serial streaker Mark Roberts, who disrupted a Centre Court match in 2002 and has interrupted sporting events and live TV shows by stripping off.

Former champion Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters have been troubled by obsessive fans in the past.

‘I can’t stand the man,’ she said. ‘He is rude and arrogant and he needs to be a gentleman and a scholar first. I’ll be backing Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.’

If rain does stop play, it is likely to mean extra frustration for players whose games are a washout, plus a drenching for 40,000 daily fans. It would also herald the first full-scale use of Centre Court’s much vaunted sliding roof.

The retractable structure has been called into action briefly since it was completed in 2009 but was used only as a sunshade last year during the driest tournament on record.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has an ace up its sleeve in predicting the weather, however.

Incoming rain will be signalled by the gentlemanly tones of the voice of Wimbledon, Tony Adamson.

It would be tempting to imagine the silver-haired veteran of the world’s favourite championships simply wandering outside his office, glancing at the heavens and holding a moistened finger in the air.

Alongside him, however, in a small, first-floor room near Centre Court, is a Met Office forecaster with a laptop – and access to the most sophisticated weather information and technology available.

From 200 miles away at Met Office headquarters in Exeter, all the data needed for Wimbledon to decide whether to operate the roof, man the covers (or evacuate the players two by two in an ark) is pinged to on-site forecasters.

Then it is turned into English, passed down the line, and presented to the decision-makers – championship referee Andrew Jarrett and head groundsman Eddie Seaward.

They get a long-range and daily forecast, at least 30 minutes warning that rain will definitely fall, and several hours if it’s likely.

Met Office forecaster Michael Lawrence said: ‘Persistent and at times heavy rain pushes in from the south-west through Monday and arrives in London in the afternoon, with a high chance of rain at Wimbledon.’

Showers are also forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday, followed by brighter spells on Thursday and Friday before unsettled weather returns at the weekend.

Terry Wogan greets England's World Cup winning rugby coach Clive Woodward on Centre CourtTerry Wogan greets England’s World Cup winning rugby coach Clive Woodward on Centre Court

Dakota Fanning attends the Evian VIP Suite at Wimbledon
Kirsten Dunst and Leith Clark attend the Evian VIP Suite at Wimbledon

Star turn: Dakota Fanning, left, was among the visitors to SW19 on the opening day of Wimbledon, while Kirsten Dunst was enjoying the day with fashion editor Leith Clark (in the black boots)

Stanley Tucci and a friend attend the Evian VIP Suite at Wimbledon
Grace Jones on the first day at Wimbledon

Actor Stanley Tucci and a guest enjoyed the hospitality on the opening day of the All England Championships, while Grace Jones was also among the spectators

FIVE-DAY FORECAST

TUESDAY: It looks like a full day’s tennis could be in store with temperatures reaching a comfortable 19 or 20C. There will be some cloud cover, getting brighter as the day goes on, with little chance of rain.

WEDNESDAY: Showers look likely throughout the day, but they are only expected to be light so it looks likely there will be a decent amount of tennis on the lawns.

THURSDAY:There may be more breaks in play as showers are predicted getting heavier as the day progresses.

FRIDAY: Heavy showers are expected throughout most of the day so the roof at Wimbledon may be called into action on centre court with other games postponed.

SATURDAY: Heading into the weekend it will be dry to start with but as the day progresses there is a risk of wetter weather with wind blowing showers from the west.

The recent wet weather has created more work for groundstaff at the world-famous All England Tennis Club in south London.

The team have been rolling the courts more than usual to make sure they stay firm and for the last week they have also been covered overnight.

Fears of rain are in stark contrast to last year, when not a single drop fell on the corner of SW19 throughout the two-week tournament.

The summer has so far been a major disappointment after the UK enjoyed its warmest spring for 350 years.

Between March and the end of May, Britain as a whole was at its hottest and driest since records began in 1910. There had been predictions of similar sizzling temperatures for June and July.

But now events such as Glastonbury next week are bracing for downpours.

Fans face further disruption from strike action on London Underground – raising the grim possibility that they will struggle through travel chaos, only to find no play at the tournament.

One player not put off by yesterday’s showers was defending ladies champion Serena Williams.

The 29-year-old was spotted – or perhaps striped – practising in a pair of shorts that had fashion experts struggling for adjectives.

They appeared to have a tie-dye pattern popular in the late 1960s, and did nothing but enhance Miss Williams’s legendary curves.

But they failed to detract from her ferocious backhand as she tries to end a year of injury woes and health scares with her fifth Wimbledon title.

 

Rain and Spain: Fans who camped out overnight made it clear who they were rooting for
A steward holds a sign at the fan's camping field at Wimbledon

Flying the flag: Fans who camped out overnight for tickets made it clear who they would be rooting for once the action began today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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