David Ashdown's Sports Picture Diary: Wimbledon Exhibition

Tennis at Wimbledon in May?..very strange - but if you want strange how about tennis on Centre Court under a roof!

This will be my thirty-fifth Wimbledon (my first was in 1974 when Jimmy Connors thrashed Ken Rosewall) and in all the ensuing years the one thing that has been an absolute curse has been the weather. Having a roof over Centre Court will mean there will always be tennis on TV, after all that's the main reason for installing it, but it's only one court so if it rains for much of the Championships we might still be there on the third Monday.

From a photographic perspective it will be wonderful, not because there will always be tennis to snap, but because we won't have to wander around trying to find a wet weather picture. No need to find some poor unfortunates huddled under a umbrella on court two, or going down to Fred Perry's statue to do water dripping off his nose or even as happened one year - Cliff Richard singing on Centre Court as the rain poured down.

Not one photographer I have ever met at Wimbledon would say he enjoyed doing them. I tried to put off doing them as long as possible, if there had been any play at all, even just half an hour I was off the hook, but looking back over all those years there have been pictures of ducks swimming on courts, stair wells flooded, every possible way to show how miserable Wimbledon can be in the rain.

Centre Court under the new transparent roof with its clever lighting will make our job so much more satisfying. They have managed to avoid any shadows on the court and the light is very soft. The only disadvantage could occur if a match starts at about 6pm and the roof is closed. Between about 6.30pm and 7.45pm the sun goes down over the west stand, casting a shadow across the court. It can make beautiful pictures either from the east pit looking up at the players, or from a position just under the roof as the shadow moves across the court. The roof will not be opened while a game is in progress so should the sun come out there is no chance of capturing the wonderful light.

Having said that, I'm looking forward to continuous tennis and it's not a moment too soon for me. This picture of yesterday's exhibition match to officially unveil the new roof was taken on a Nikon D3 camera at 1/250 second with a 14mm F2.8 lens at F7.0 as Andre Agassi & Steffie Graf played Tim Henman & Kim Clijsters.