A rite of summer: Wimbledon begins with rain

In what hardly qualifies as an upset, Wimbledon began with rain.

Two interruptions because of showers meant only a half hour of tennis on the tournament's first day, with no matches completed, 17 suspended and 47 postponed.

Rain moved in Monday after two weeks of warm, mostly dry weather, making it the 11th consecutive year Wimbledon has endured at least one interruption. The tournament tradition was renewed even though southern England has been in a drought.

Matches were delayed for 59 minutes at the start on the outer courts before a brief dry spell allowed players to take the court. Then came a delay that lasted 5Ѕ hours before officials suspended play for the night.

The backlog in matches means defending champion Venus Williams and top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo will wait until Wednesday to play.

Weather aside, Wimbledon began with a different look. On-court officials, ball boys and ball girls wore smart new blue outfits by Ralph Lauren, and three-time defending champion Roger Federer walked onto Centre Court in a stylish cream-colored blazer bearing his last name on the breast pocket.

He removed it before warming up, and took a 6-3, 1-2 lead over Richard Gasquet before the second band of showers hit.

Martina Hingis, playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2001, won the first set against Olga Savchuk 6-2 before their match was suspended. Hingis, Wimbledon's youngest champion in the Open era when she won the title at 16 in 1997, began a career comeback in January after a three-year injury layoff.

With the grass courts covered, the players' restaurant was packed. French Open champion Rafael Nadal stood holding a tray of pasta, looking for a place to sit. James Blake, whose match was later postponed, sat with his mom while his brother played cards.

"We'll all be used to this by the end of the fortnight, I'm sure," Blake said.

Waiting to begin his 13th Wimbledon was Tim Henman.

"I've had my share of rain delays over the years," Henman said. "It's just a question of being patient and making sure you're ready to go. It can clear up so quickly and 10, 15 minutes later, you've got to be out on court."

Henman's match eventually was postponed.

Fans sought refuge from the damp, chilly conditions under umbrellas and in souvenir shops, well accustomed to the routine. The longest line was at the new Wimbledon museum.

The 2004 tournament was one of the wettest, with two days washed out and all but three days interrupted by showers. Relief is on the way, at least on Centre Court: A retractable roof is to be ready in 2009, reports AP.


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Author`s name: Editorial Team