One side of the new Court One, built in 1997

One side of the new Court One, built in 1997

They closed Wimbledon’s retractable Centre Court roof for the first time.  Why?  A Monday afternoon sprinkle that was soon over, but the folks at the All England Club were itchy to play with their new $140 million toy.  The weather was acting too nice in this corner of the world that has long been known as the tropical rain forest of Southwest London.  Sunny day followed sunny day, and the roof remained open.

No rain on the roof.  Rain, once an unwelcome visitor, was being prayed for, if only to show off the fancy new engineering that has banished rain-outs – at least for the prime playground, Centre Court.  Although the sun soon returned, strangely the roof stayed closed for the homeboy Andy Murray. But management got lucky.  With the lights on, Andy and Stanislav Wawrinka were able to stage their 5-set epic (three hours, 56 minutes) until 10:38.  Without the roof, Murray – the winner, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 – and Wawrinka would have been halted by darkness an hour before.  Instead, Wimbledon had its latest closing. An historic night match.

Meanwhile, a kid named Lisicki and an “old man” (in tennis terms) named Haas recalled the days when Germany had a couple who tore the tournament apart for a while.  They were Steffi Graf, 7 times champion between 1988 and 1996, and Boris Becker, thrice champ between 1985 and 1989.  Once these two Hall of Famers called it a career, Germany subsided drastically.

Maybe 19-year-old Sabine Lisicki, a honey blonde with a honey of a roaring serve, and 31-year-old Tommy Haas, free from injuries that that have plagued him for a long time, will stir things up in their homeland.

Bill Macatee and Martina Navratilova interviewing Ana Ivanovic for Tennis Channel

Bill Macatee and Martina Navratilova interviewing Ana Ivanovic for Tennis Channel

Both have crashed the quarterfinals, No. 41 Lisicki evicting No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, 6-4, 6-4, and No. 24 Haas getting a “revenge win” over Russian Igor Andreev, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, 6-4.  “Igor beat me the last time we played, Davis Cup on clay.”

Haas, the winner of the grass court tuneup at Halle (Germany) has a streak of 9 victories and 12 of his last 13.

He muses, “I was injured a lot, so that has kind of helped because I was forced to be on the sidelines too many times for my liking.  So maybe there’s some time left for me.  If somebody had said two months ago I’d be in the quarters at Wimbledon, I wasn’t so sure.  This is a fantastic run no matter what happens from here.  You know if you still continue to play well, have some success every now and then, I mean that’s what you play for.”

A reporter asked Tommy if he knew of the last 30-year-old to win Wimbledon.  “Well, I’m 31.  Who was it,” he responded.

Arthur Ashe upsetting Jimmy Connors in the 1975 final.   Next up for Tommy is Novak Djokovic.

Sabine Lisicki, who can serve in the 120s, was bounced swiftly from her Wimbledon debut a year ago.  “I was never in that first rounder,” she laughs.  “I’d never played on grass, didn’t like it.  I was overwhelmed.  But I like it now.”

She won Charleston, S.C., recently, her first pro title, beating her victim of today, Wozniacki.  “I’m surprised at getting this far, and how well I’ve played,” she says. “The key was my first match.  Anna Chakvatadze [4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2].  I was two points from losing, but pulled it out.”  But her big prize was bringing down French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2, 7-5.  Now she has a shot at No. 1 Dinara Safina.

Maybe Germany is recovering.

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