By PAUL HARRIS and EMILY ANDREWS
The covers are pulled off Centre Court so that play can resume despite torrential rain outside - the first time it has ever happened
Thousands of Andy Murray fans had sat patiently under their brollies, sipped hot tea from flasks, and unfurled their Union Flags in anticipation.
But on a rain-hit Day One at Wimbledon, they were robbed of the chance to see him on the big screen – for 'health and safety' reasons.
The grassy slopes of Henman Hill - now renamed Murray Mount - were empty after the screen was blanked out and the area was closed in case anyone slipped and hurt their ankles.
After losing a set to little-known Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver, to the consternation of his mother Judy and girlfriend Kim, the Scot recovered to win by three sets to one beneath the Centre Court roof, in use for the first time.
Sign of the times: Hardy fans on Murray Mount sit around a bench in the dying hope that there might be some more tennis for them to enjoy
Rain stops play? Not for these boy who slide down Murray Mount enjoying the slippery surface
Spectators cover up to try and keep dry on one of the courts in the vain hope that play will eventually be resumed
Sitting it out: A couple shelter from the rain in Centre Court before the retractable roof kicks into action while others huddle under an umbrella and waterproof
Andy Murray's girlfriend, Kim Sears reacts as she sits alongside his mother Judy while he takes Centre Court against Spain's Gimeno-Traver
Ball boys tied and swept water from the covers last night to stop the grass from getting wet in the hope that play can resume today
Making a dash: These spectators cover up as they leave the stadiums after heavy rain stopped play
Furious tennis lovers deprived of the chance to cheer him on from Murray Mount said they would have been happy to take their chances with the slippery conditions and accused tournament organisers of bowing to the modern culture of inflating potential risks beyond likely reality. Others showed how it was possible to slide down the hill, even head-first, without injury.
This is the first time in the tournament history the screen has been deliberately blanked out since it was installed. Countless throngs have enjoyed second-best views from this spot, which can accommodate up to 4,000. When the roof is open, you can easily hear the roar of the Centre Court crowd while watching the action on screen.
I've got it covered: Andy Murray returns a shot in his match against Spain's Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain on Centre Court
Among the disappointed fans was Katie O'Brien, the British hopeful who was knocked out yesterday after losing her first-round match and took her family to the hill to 'drown my sorrows with a Pimm's', as she phrased it on Twitter. Shortly afterwards, the screen went blank.
Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said: 'This is the first time we have had to shut off the big screen as this is the first time the roof has been used in these conditions. Previous to the roof, of course there would have been no play to watch on Centre anyway if it was rained off.
'The hill has been closed because of the slippery nature of the grass while it is so wet. It is a health and safety issue. We just can't have people slipping and sliding and falling off the thing and breaking their ankles.
'It's different on the courts if there is a drizzle as they can sit on seats. We could have large numbers of people slipping and sliding all over the place.'
'Even if the rain stops we won't turn the big screen back on - that's it I'm afraid. It's regrettable but wise in view of the circumstances. We always anticipated that we would have to turn off the match for those on the hill if it rained.'
Those who were lucky enough to get onto the show courts were treated to a mesmerising display from Venus Williams - in the form of a strange white playsuit.
It was so wet on Murray Mount that fans took the opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere and slide their way to the bottom of the hill, but it has now been shut over health and safety fears.
Lovely weather for ducks... and flowers: This young spectator was totally absorbed by the tennis action - while it lasted
Full of anticipation: Crowds begin to assemble on 'Murray Mound' ahead of the British number one's first round match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver yesterday afternoon
Star turn: Dakota Fanning, left, was among the visitors to SW19 on the opening day of Wimbledon, while Kirsten Dunst was enjoying the day with fashion editor Leith Clark (in the black boots)
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
By PAUL HARRIS and EMILY ANDREWS