Hugh Montgomery: Rant & Rave (08/07/12)

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The Independent Online


It's the most divisive Wimbledon fixture this side of John McEnroe. Installed in 2009, the Centre Court roof has enjoyed a star turn this year as it has rolled back and forth to keep play going come rain, wind or darkness. But what has been desirable for ticket-holders has been disconcerting for players, with views ranging from the obviously irritated – Nadal bemoaning the time it took to retract during his second-round defeat – to the cheerfully bemused – Serena Williams describing the sound of the balls under it as "almost like a video game".

And therein lies the rub. Cover up this quintessentially inclement competition and there's a danger of it turning it into a sanitised simulacrum of its former self. You only have to think back to the 2008 final – when rain delays contributed to an epic, psychological tug-of-war between Federer and Nadal – to remember the scintillating drama the elements can foster. Let's hope this year's locker-room grumbling makes the organisers think twice before raising the roof on court No 1 to boot.


At least the Championships have maintained their integrity at ground level. Uniquely among major tennis tournaments, Wimbledon still refuses to allow advertising hoardings to line the grass; meanwhile, corporate branding as a whole is restricted to the discreet (Slazenger tennis balls) and the iconic (the Rolex clock). Which, at a time when the Olympics is about to roll into town trailing its laughably inappropriate bunch of junk food sponsorship deals, seems the most admirable of anachronisms.