Wimbledon rain

Thursday 09th Jun 2011 by theWeather Club

As night followed day, so the start of Wimbledon would always herald the arrival of a blanket of rain-packed clouds, leading to delays, dampness and Cliff Richard singing. Then the All England Club spent tens of millions of pounds on an state-of-the-art retractable roof for centre court, at which point the weather gods decided that the start of Wimbledon would, for a few years at least, instead herald a couple of weeks of unbroken sunshine, thus preventing the roof from ever making much of an appearance.

This year, that massive investment at last appeared to have paid off. During a fortnight of deeply unsettled weather, with the next shower never far away, the roof saw plenty of action, meaning that play centre court continued uninterrupted until late into the evening on every day of the tournament. Those lucky enough and rich enough to be in the crowd on the show court were able to sip champagne without the need for cagoules or sensible shoes. Those in the cheap seats on the outer courts got completely soaked, but then that's what British sport is all about.

Here are some of the wettest Wimbledons in history:

Heavy rain throughout the whole of the first week of Wimbledon caused mayhem for schedulers and led to some of the lowest attendances seen at the tournament in the modern era. By the second Tuesday, a day usually reserved for women's quarter-finals, four men's third round matches still awaited completion. Rafael Nadal's third round match against Robin Soderling lasted for five days and was interrupted eight times by rain. Many of the players protested at the organisers' decision not to play on the middle Sunday of the tournament, a tactic used on three previous occasions – a decision that exacerbated the fixture pile-up at the business end of proceedings. It was something of a miracle that the men's final managed to go ahead as scheduled on the second Sunday, but both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were clearly fatigued by played three matches each in just four days.

The biggest victim of the rain in 2001 was probably Tim Henman, who seemed fully in command of his semi-final against the un-seeded Goran Ivanisevic after winning a sublime, almost faultless third set 6-0 to take a 2-1 advantage. Then the rain came, and the players were forced off for the day. When they returned on the Saturday, Henman's momentum had gone, and the Croat claimed the fourth set before yet another rain delay forced the game into a third day with Henman 3-2 down in the fifth. On the Sunday morning, Ivanisevic quickly rattled off the three games he needed to win the match, before returning on the Monday, a day later than scheduled, to win the final. Henman's extraordinary form in on the Friday evening makes this one of the great 'what ifs' of British sport.

Rain on the last three days of the tournament meant that the men's and women's finals were both played on the Sunday for the first and only time.

In 1982, 77mm of rain fell on Wimbledon over the course of the fortnight, more than three times the average midsummer rainfall for a two-week period. The men's final, won by Jimmy Connors, was completed a day later than scheduled.

The most disrupted Championships in history were in 1922, the first time the tournament was held in its current location. Rain fell on every single day, turning the uncovered courts into bogs. The tournament eventually ended on the Wednesday of the third week, the latest ever finish.


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