It is hard to imagine quite what was in the minds of Wimbledon's order of play committee when they decided not to put Andy Murray's fourth-round meeting with Marin Cilic on Centre Court here this afternoon – the Scot and the Croat are second on Court One – but Ivan Lendl is not complaining.
"It's going to be a factor if it rains, but beyond that I don't see it as a problem," Murray's coach said yesterday. "You walk in there and it looks like a mini Centre Court. It looks wonderful. I have to say that having not been here for 19 years before this, it is absolutely phenomenal what they have done, with the roof, with Court One, with the training facilities. The practice courts now are better than the main courts when I played on them. There's not words to describe what a great job they've done."
Lendl enjoyed his first experience of the Centre Court roof on Saturday night. With play due to finish at 11pm because of local authority restrictions, Murray won a race against time to beat Marcos Baghdatis 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 after the roof had been closed at the end of the second set because of bad light. The latest match in Wimbledon history finished at 11.02pm.
"I thought the atmosphere once they closed the roof was phenomenal," Lendl said. "I had popped in there before the championship, but I'd never seen it with the roof closed, not even on TV. I said: 'Wow, this is good, this is special'."
The occasion also gave Lendl a chance to catch up with Jack Nicklaus, who was in the Royal Box. "I've played tennis and golf with Jack since the early Eighties," Lendl said. "I ruined his grass court at his home one year. He has four tennis courts at home."
Lendl, who recalled not playing his first-round match here in 1982 until the second Monday because of bad weather, was relieved that both Murray and Cilic completed their matches. Cilic beat Sam Querrey 17-15 in the final set in fading light after the second longest match in Wimbledon history at five hours and 31 minutes. "Otherwise it would have played havoc with the schedule," Lendl said. "Had they not got them finished I would not like to have been the referee. In fairness to the players they would have had to be holding a bunch of guys back so someone wasn't a round ahead."
Lendl is pleased with Murray's progress, the Scot having beaten three tricky opponents in Nikolay Davydenko, Ivo Karlovic and Baghdatis. "When the draw came out you could see there were no easy opponents," he said. "Davydenko knows how to play tennis. He has been No 3 in the world. Karlovic has won big matches and he was averaging 119mph between his first and second serve. I don't think I ever hit a first serve that hard. Baghdatis is also a good player, a former finalist of the Australian Open."
As is his fashion, Lendl has shown barely a flicker of emotion while watching matches. "That's me and I don't see any need to change my style," he said. "I've had a lot of training for this with my kids in golf. I've caddied for them or followed them many times. I never showed any emotion or nerves because it just transferred to the kids. I thought it served me and the kids well and I don't see this is any different. This is a higher level, but the principle is the same."
Murray, meanwhile, revelled in the occasion. Having at times played cautiously in the cool and windy conditions, he showed admirable aggression in the last set and a half in the still and warm atmosphere under the roof, winning 11 of the last 13 games. Initially told at 4-1 in the final set that only one more game would be possible, he was relieved to have the chance to finish the job.
"Mentally it's just nice to be through," he said. "If we had stopped at 4-1 , yes I would have been in a great position, but you never know what conditions would have been like if I had had to come back on Monday. It could have been very windy, the sun in your eyes or whatever, which puts more pressure on.
"I was going to say at 5-1 that I would have been happy to spot any fine the club may get as long as we could finish the match. It will be interesting to see what they say about it. Certainly the officials seemed pretty relaxed about it all at 11pm. I was just glad they let us finish."
He added: "When the roof comes on everyone gets really excited. The atmosphere changes for sure. None of the noise gets lost. It stays in the stadium. Because it's something different, people get really into it. And with it getting close to 11pm, people have probably had a few drinks as well and they get into it even more. The atmosphere at the end was incredible. But I hope it stays dry because Wimbledon is an outdoor event. I guess every game will feel like a cup final now. Those late matches have such a special atmosphere."
In a match full of drama Murray had a problem with balls falling out of his pockets – at the end he was taking only one ball at a time when serving – and also had several falls. He had his left knee taped during the break but said afterwards that he had no physical worries. "I've obviously got a few bumps and bruises. I fell quite a lot more than I normally do on the grass. I put on a new pair of shoes when the break came with the roof and moved better after that."
Murray, through to the second week for the fifth year in a row, has won five of his six meetings with Cilic (below) but lost to the 23-year-old Croat in the fourth round of the 2009 US Open.
When Cilic first emerged he was regarded as one of the game's most exciting prospects, but his progress has faltered. The world No 18 made first-round exits here in 2010 and 2011. However, he won the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club last month – only his second title in 28 months – and showed great mental strength to hold off Querrey.
"I have to go into the match with positive thinking," Cilic said. "If I do things right, if I do what I'm planning to do in the match, I can go for it."
Murray had noticed the length of Cilic's match when the score was flashed up on the Centre Court scoreboard. "I was sort of thinking that's great for me, or for Marcos," Murray said. "It will be important for me to try to get off to a good start. If you're feeling a little bit tired and you go behind, it can be tough to come back."