LONDON – They played into the night on Centre Court, later than anyone ever had in Wimbledon’s long history, and they played indoors, the first match contested entirely under the new roof.
And, at 10:39 p.m. Monday, when No. 3-seeded Andy Murray of Britain finally finished off a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland to reach the quarter-finals at the All England Club, the partisan fans celebrated their guy’s victory with a roar.
“It was pretty special,” said Murray, who dropped to his knees when the match ended, folded his body forward, then stood and swatted a ball straight up so hard it hit the roof.
No man from Britain has won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, and, like his countrymen, Murray – a 22-year-old from Scotland – is interested in that sort of history, rather than the sort he and Wawrinka made Monday.
Still, these circumstances were rather extraordinary, what with Centre Court’s roof shut, the lights on and a chance to play the match until its rightful conclusion, no matter how late it carried on.
That’s never before been the case at Wimbledon, where unlike at the U.S. Open, for example, there never have been lighted courts, and matches often are stopped in progress because of darkness not much beyond 9 p.m.
Previously, no Centre Court point ever had been played later than 9:35 p.m.
“I’ll have a pretty deep sleep after that one,” Murray said.
At a tournament that began in 1877, not a single point had been contested indoors until earlier Monday, when a light sprinkle interrupted No. 1-ranked Dinara Safina’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo.
After the fifth game of the second set, the translucent roof above the main stadium was closed, and Safina and Mauresmo finished up underneath – even though by the time they resumed, the rain had stopped.
Because forecasts called for later showers (none arrived), organizers left the roof sealed for Murray-Wawrinka, which turned out to be a fortuitous decision, even if Murray found the conditions “very, very heavy and very humid; sweating so much. … When I finished, it was like I’d been in a bath.”
All in all, though, the day’s last match provided far more excitement than the generally open-and-shut cases that dominated the rest of the fourth round.
Five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer won easily, as did two-time runner-up Andy Roddick and No. 4 Novak Djokovic.
Venus Williams, like Federer chasing a sixth title at the All England Club, was way ahead when her opponent, former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, quit with a thigh injury.
Williams’ younger sister Serena, herself a two-time Wimbledon champion, and No. 4 Elena Dementieva were never challenged in their straight-set victories.
One surprising run ended in the fourth round. Melanie Oudin, a 17-year-old qualifier from Marietta, Ga., who never won a Grand Slam match before last week, lost to No. 11 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 7-5.
“It’s always difficult to play someone who you don’t know,” said Radwanska, who didn’t appear to have any difficulty Monday, but might find the road rougher Tuesday.
That’s when she’ll play in the quarter-finals against Venus Williams, who has won 18 consecutive matches at Wimbledon and is trying to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win the tournament three years in a row.
Tuesday’s other matches are No. 2 Serena Williams against No. 8 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Dementieva against unseeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy, and Safina against unseeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
The men get a day off before their quarter-finals Wednesday, when the matchups will be No. 2 Federer vs. No. 22 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, Murray vs. 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, Djokovic vs. No. 24 Tommy Haas, and Roddick vs. 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, who lost the first two sets but came back to beat No. 23 Radek Stepanek 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
In men’s doubles, Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic remain on track to defend their Wimbledon title.
The second-seeded pair eliminated Jonathan Marray and Jamie Delado of Britain 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Nestor, a Toronto native, and Zimonjic will face Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Austrian Oliver Marach in the final eight.
Roddick is 26, and Hewitt is 28. Neither of them has anything on Haas, who at 31 was the oldest man to reach the fourth round and now meets the youngest, Djokovic, who was born a week after Murray.
Federer improved to 11-0 against Robin Soderling by beating him in straight sets in a rematch of the French Open final three weeks ago.
Now Federer has to deal with Karlovic, at six-foot-10 the tallest player in tour history, who pounded 35 aces and served 10 games at love while defeating No. 7 Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (9).
Karlovic leads Wimbledon with 137 aces and has gone 128 service games over his past two tournaments without being broken.
“I mean maybe it’s not the most fun match to go through,” Federer said. “But I like to beat this guy because he makes it hard on us.”
Federer and Wawrinka teamed to win the doubles gold medal at last year’s Beijing Olympics, and otherwise Wawrinka never has come close to approaching his friend’s success.
Bidding to reach his first major quarter-final, though, Wawrinka gave Murray plenty of trouble.
It all felt more like a theatre than a sports venue, thanks to the surroundings and the momentum shifts.
Wawrinka came out playing superbly, then things swung in Murray’s favour.
With the local favourite seemingly in control, Wawrinka stole the fourth set. And, in the fifth, which began at 9:56 p.m., Murray raced to a 3-0 lead, before Wawrinka took the next three games.
Then Murray closed with a three-game run.
Sounds echoed with the roof closed on Centre Court, which originally was constructed in 1922. All those shouts of “Come on, Andy!” from all of those spectators waving Union Jacks and Scottish flags reverberated around the arena as hundreds of other people watched on a TV screen set up outdoors.
“At the end, it was probably the noisiest crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” Murray said. “It definitely sounds and feels much louder under the roof.”
Even Wawrinka was able to appreciate the setting, if not the result.
“I enjoy a lot the match,” Wawrinka said. “But for sure, I’m very sad after the match.”