Britain's rising star sends expectations through roof

Andy Murray's thrilling win under cover has changed Wimbledon for ever

Wimbledon watchers always knew that the new roof over Centre Court would change the tournament for ever, but until Andy Murray beat Stanislas Wawrinka in a pulsating five-set match here on Monday night few realised quite how dramatic the impact would be.

There could hardly have been a better contest to celebrate the first deployment of the roof – a cliff-hanger involving Britain's best player for three-quarters of a century – and the television viewing figures were remarkable. The average audience was 7.7 million, just 600,000 short of the figure for the recent Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona, and peaked at 11.8 million.

The All England Club was understandably delighted. "The standard of tennis was fantastic," Ian Ritchie, the chief executive, said yesterday. "It produced a fantastic event for people here and for millions on television. From where I'm sitting it was a great success."

Although the recent test event, featuring a gentle afternoon's matches involving Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters, proved that the air management system could keep the court playable under a closed roof, it would have been all but impossible to create in advance the crowd noise as the tension mounted in Monday's final set.

Murray in particular relished the atmosphere, though there were other aspects of the experience that had concerned him. The Scot felt that the roof had increased the humidity. "When I finished it was like I'd been in a bath," he said.

The Scot felt the humidity had affected the match. He said that the balls felt heavier and that it was harder to put away winning shots, which led to longer rallies.

However, the All England Club studied the statistics from its engineering team yesterday and concluded that the roof had actually made the conditions more player-friendly. The average relative humidity during the match was 50 per cent, which was exactly the target level. Outside the court the humidity was between 58 and 59 per cent. By the time the roof was reopened at 10.45pm it had climbed to 60 per cent.

The average temperature inside the court was around 24 to 25C, while the temperature outside was 26C. Although 24C is regarded as the optimum, the purpose of the air management system is to control the humidity – condensation would have a major detrimental effect on the playing surface – rather than the temperature.

Murray was also unhappy at being given little notice that the match would be played under cover. The roof had been deployed during the previous match, between Amélie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina, and a decision was made to keep it closed after a weather forecast, issued at 6pm, showed that there was a 70 per cent chance of more rain, although it never materialised. Murray's match started at 6.41pm.

As it turned out, the roof would have been deployed anyway because of the late finish. Additional electric lighting is used whenever the roof is drawn across and if a match is unfinished by nightfall the cover will be employed to enable it to be completed. This process takes a total of 40 minutes, mostly to create the right atmospheric conditions.

Given that Murray's match did not end until 10.38pm, the finish would have been much later had the players had to leave the court to wait for the roof to be deployed. Ritchie pointed out that the only other alternative – and until this year this would have been the only option – would have been to halt the match and tell the players to come back the next day.

"Deciding to leave the roof closed gave the players a constancy of conditions, without the interruption of the roof closing," Ritchie said. "If it had been two sets to one or two sets all and we had stopped for half an hour to close the roof, it could have transformed the match. This way, they continued all the way through."

Before the tournament the All England Club had always insisted that Wimbledon would remain an outdoor, daytime event whenever possible. The decision to start Murray's match under the roof seemed to run against that thinking, but Ritchie insisted: "We are certainly not going to schedule a regular evening session. The view would still be to keep the roof open as long as we can.

"As an event, it was unbelievable. If we had the same circumstances again, we would do it like that. Would we have done anything differently last night? Absolutely not. What happened was a great event. It may not happen again this week and it could happen tomorrow. I don't think it will, but I don't see any negatives at all."

Attracting viewers: How Murray stacks up in TV ratings fight

11.8 million

The peak number of viewers who tuned in to watch Murray take on Wawrinka on BBC1, only 500,000 less than last year's men's final.

14.6 million

Peak number of viewers who saw Manchester United beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final.

17 million

Average number of viewers who watched the Rugby World Cup final, South Africa v England in 2007.

9.8 million

Peak figure for the final of The Apprentice on BBC One last month.

20.5 million

Peak number of viewers who tuned in to Eastenders to find out who shot Phil Mitchell in 2001.

Cover up: Roof facts

177 metres the span of the moving roof trusses.

13,000 tonnes the total weight of the new roof.

17,500 the number of umbrellas it would take to cover the same area as the roof.

1995 the last year that there was a rain-free Wimbledon fortnight.

Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice