Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Wimbledon gets off to worst start in 13 years
WIMBLEDON, England -- Andy Roddick managed to help entertain
drenched Wimbledon spectators without hitting a shot.
Nary a point was played in the 74 matches scheduled Wednesday at
the All England Club, the tournament's first complete rainout since
1999. Because sprinkles interrupted action Monday and Tuesday, too,
only 83 of 160 matches have been finished, the fewest in 13 years
through Day 3.
When the sun finally peeked out from behind the clouds at 2:40
p.m., Roddick thought he'd get a chance to resume his first-round
match against Wang Yeu-tzuoo of Taiwan, suspended Tuesday at 4-2,
"Automatically, the juices start flowing a little bit, so I ran
down to the locker room," the U.S. Open champion said. "But no.
With live tennis coverage washed out, the British Broadcasting
Corp. aired matches from past years and a rerun of its special
Wimbledon edition of "The Weakest Link," taped last week.
Contestants included the second-seeded Roddick; his coach, Brad
Gilbert; and Hall of Famer Boris Becker.
Hundreds of fans huddling under umbrellas on the grassy slope
known as Henman Hill chuckled or applauded while watching on the
giant TV screen outside Court 1.
Gilbert was asked, "What palindromic word is often used to mean
'midday'?" His not-even-close answer: "12 o'clock." He grimaced
when the host said, "Noon."
Roddick whiffed when queried about which player was known as
"Fraulein Forehand," failing to name Steffi Graf. But he drew
laughs while bantering with host Anne Robinson, and Roddick's
appearance was the sort of extra exposure the sport could use these
days, much like his hosting of "Saturday Night Live" last year.
"I was so nervous, I almost choked," he said about the
quick-question quiz show. "It's so nerve-racking."
That's how some players describe a rainy day at Wimbledon. It's
not easy to figure out when to eat or how to while away the time.
"You have to wake up thinking you're going to play," Roddick
said. "It's tough to think it's going to rain all day."
This meteorological madness is nothing new, of course. The
tournament's official statistics book contains a year-by-year
account of Wimbledon weather dating to 1919, and the All England
Club announced in January it will build a retractable roof over
Centre Court that's expected to be ready in 2009.
That won't help this fortnight, though. So organizers cut men's
doubles matches from five sets to three until the quarterfinals and
scheduled the start of Thursday's play an hour earlier than usual.
"You're sort of constantly on edge. The 'hurry up and wait'
syndrome is what you're forced to deal with, and some players deal
with it better than others," said three-time Wimbledon champion
John McEnroe, a TV analyst here for the BBC and NBC.
"That's why this is more of a mental test than any other event
and perhaps less of a physical one. You have to dig deep within
The players with the right to feel most frustrated might be
French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria and Wesley Moodie, a South
African ranked 106th. Their first-round match was halted Monday
tied at two sets apiece.
Play resumed Tuesday, when scattered drops made the turf damp
and slippery, and Coria looked as if he hurt his groin and knee
during a tumble. When the match was suspended at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday
-- with Coria two points from victory at 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-7 (3),
5-3, 30-all -- he limped off and didn't look happy about not
Roddick also lost his footing Tuesday while attempting to
serve-and-volley on what turned out to be that day's final point.
"It was slippery, but I guess they have more experience than I
do," he said. "It was definitely a bit dangerous out there, but
it's not my call."
On Wednesday, Coria was in the players' restaurant, picking at a
plate of pasta. Roddick was there, too, hanging out with a friend.
Next door, No. 30 Vince Spadea checked his e-mail on one of 20
computers in the players' lounge.
"Just really bored right now," French Open champion Anastasia
Various players, coaches and other entourage members sprawled
across stuffed chairs and couches, reading newspapers or books,
giving the room the feel of an airport terminal during a blizzard.
"You sit here with all the people, you go crazy. If you sit at
home, you also go crazy," said 2001 champion Goran Ivanisevic,
whose semifinal against Tim Henman that year stretched through
"That's part of Wimbledon. Wimbledon without rain is not