Spectators on the outside courts waited in vain for play to resume after rain forced the players off the courts shortly after 5pm on the opening day of the 125th Championships here yesterday. To the relief of home fans with Centre Court tickets, a Spanish storm that had gathered under the stadium's retractable roof at about the same time eventually blew itself out.
Andy Murray was looking more than a little concerned after his first-round opponent, the Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver, took the first set with an increasingly confident barrage of bold serves and attacking forehands. The world No 56's decline, nevertheless, was as spectacular as his whirlwind start had been. From 3-3 in the second set he lost 15 games in succession as Murray won 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0.
It was a remarkable turnaround and may have had something to do with Gimeno-Traver's fitness. The 25-year-old from Valencia took a medical time-out for treatment on his right knee after the fifth game of the third set, though he was already looking a beaten man at that stage.
By the end Murray was playing with all the confidence he had rediscovered over the last two months, culminating in his victory in the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club last week. "I played some really good tennis in the third and fourth sets," he said. "Even in the first set, apart from the game when I got broken, he hardly won any points on my serve."
It was only the third match to be played entirely under cover since the Centre Court roof was installed two years ago – and the first to be played while rain was actually falling. The roof was first deployed in 2009 to enable a women's singles match to be completed and was kept closed, despite the fact that the sun had come out again, for Murray's five-set victory over Stanislas Wawrinka.
Last year the roof was used, for Novak Djokovic's first-round match against Olivier Rochus, not because of rain but in order to take advantage of the artificial lighting on a gloomy evening. Nevertheless, until yesterday the roof had been used more frequently as a sun shade: when partially deployed it provides protection from the sun for those in the Royal Box.
To the disappointment of spectators without Centre Court tickets, yesterday's match was not shown on the big screen by Court One for safety reasons because of the slippery ground.
Having the roof pulled across inevitably affects the nature of the tennis. "The roof changes the conditions," Murray said afterwards. "It's almost too perfect. There's no wind, obviously no sun, no elements to contend with. It's different grass-court tennis."
Murray was prepared to face an opponent with a big forehand, but dealing with it, initially at least, was another matter. After winning his first service game with two cracking forehand winners, Gimeno-Traver rapidly grew in confidence. Murray usually controlled the rallies when he was able to concentrate his attack on his opponent's backhand, but the Spaniard invariably tried to manoeuvre the ball on to his stronger flank.
Nevertheless, Murray did not appear in any trouble until he served at 4-4. The 24-year-old Scot had dropped just two points in his first four service games but was broken in his fifth as Gimeno-Traver went on the attack, forcing an error on his third break point. The Spaniard had only one break point against him in the first set and served out to take it after 44 minutes.
Given that Gimeno-Traver had only ever won two matches on grass and has won two matches in a row just once this year, it was a major surprise to see Murray coming off second best. When he played an edgy service game to lead 4-3 in the second set there was a sense of relief around the stadium.
However, the crowd became much more animated at the end of the following game. Gimeno-Traver saved two break points but put a forehand long as Murray attacked on the third. The Scot bellowed out a roar of "Come on!" and the crowd responded in kind. Murray served out with an ace to level the contest and broke immediately at the start of the third set with a superb winning forehand cross-court pass.
Murray said afterwards that a key had been his change of tactics on his returns. Having initially tried to attack Gimeno-Traver's first serve, he switched to blocking the ball and being more aggressive on the second serve. The Spaniard was quickly blown away in a whirlwind of Murray winners as he won just 15 points in the last 12 games.
The identity of Murray's second-round opponent will not be known until today. Germany's Tobias Kamke was leading Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic 6-3, 7-6, 1-5 when their match was called off for the day.
Route to the final
Second round: Blaz Kavcic (Slovenia, aged 24, world No 72)
Kavcic was trailing 6-3, 7-6, 1-5 to Germany's Tobias Kamke when rain brought play to an end yesterday.
Third round: Marin Cilic (Croatia, aged 22, world No 27)
Cilic was involved in a tight contest with Ivan Ljubicic when the match was halted. Ljubicic was leading 7-6, 3-6, 2-1
Fourth round: Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland, aged 26, world No 14)
Roger Federer's Davis Cup doubles partner won his first match against Potito Starace but faces a tricky potential third-round encounter with Richard Gasquet
Quarter-finals: Andy Roddick (US, aged 28, world No 10)
Three-times Wimbledon finalist did not get on court against Andreas Beck. Outclassed by Murray at Queen's.
Semi-finals: Rafael Nadal (Spain, aged 25, world No 1)
Recovered from early break of serve to beat Michael Russell in straight sets. Has beaten Murray twice at Wimbledon.
Final: Roger Federer (Switzerland, aged 29, world No 3)
Starts against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin today. Seedings say Djokovic should win semi-final against Federer but the Swiss has won title six times.