Wimbledon’s £70million new retractable roof for its historic No 1 court was unveiled today at a star-studded ceremony – and a bout of rain saw it immediately in action.
The test event for the new roof, which is part of a £200million redevelopment of Wimbledon’s second largest tennis arena, was broadcast to millions on the BBC.
It featured stars including tennis legend John McEnroe, five-time winner Venus Williams and singer Paloma Faith, who entertained a packed crowd.
Wimbledon’s £70 new retractable roof for its historic No 1 court was unveiled today at a star-studded ceremony – and a bout of rain saw it immediately in action
Singer Paloma Faith performed a handful of her hits between exhibition test matches underneath the new roof
The songstress, 37, cut a glamorous figure in an elaborate scarlet dress with oversized tulle sleeves as she joined the celebration in support of the Wimbledon Foundation
Venus Williams (right), who has won the competition three times, played in a singles match against six-time grand slam winner Kim Clijsters
As well as being on presenting duties, John McEnroe (centre), who has won the competition five times, also got on the court to play fellow tennis legend Martina Navratilova (centre right). Above: the pair pictured with playing partners Jamie Murray (right) and Kim Clijsters (left)
McEnroe, 60, who had a famously angry playing demeanor, rolled back the years with some impressive forehand shots as he teamed up with Kim Clijsters in a mixed doubles match
Goran Ivanisevic, who won the men’s singles tournament in 2001, played with Jamie Murray against Australian pair Pat Cash and Lleyton Hewitt in a doubles match
The roof, which took three years to build, was used during the ceremony after rain swept across south-west London.
Goran Ivanisevic, who won the men’s singles tournament in 2001, played with Jamie Murray in a doubles match while Venus Williams played in a singles match against six-time grand slam winner Kim Clijsters.
Paloma Faith, 37, wore an elaborate scarlet dress with oversized tulle sleeves as she performed a handful of her hits between matches.
John McEnroe, who has won the competition five times, was on presenting duties and also got on court to play against fellow tennis legend Martina Navratilova in a mixed doubles match.
He partnered up with Clijsters while Navratilova, who won Wimbledon a record nine times, played with Jamie Murray.
After the match, Navratilova told Sky News: ‘You almost don’t care if you don’t play on centre because the atmosphere [on court No 1] is so good, so that levels the field more.’
Above: Wimbledon’s official Twitter account pictured two smiling spectators near the court and joked, ‘It’s a good thing we’ve got a second roof’
‘Fans there can be more emotional, more into it, more true fans,’ she added.
No 1 court was opened in 1997 and previously had a capacity of 11,360 seats, which has been boosted to 12,345 with the construction of the roof.
The new roof is identical to the one used on the 15,000-capacity Centre Court and is a boost for Wimbledon as they look to reduce the number of match delays due to rain.
After being closed, it takes around twenty minutes for the air conditioning system to adjust to a suitable playing atmosphere.
Along with the new roof, and new seats, existing seats have been replaced with wider, more comfortable ones.
The test event for the new roof, which is part of a £200m redevelopment of Wimbledon’s second largest tennis arena, was broadcast to millions on the BBC
The roof, which took three years to build, was used during the ceremony as rain swept across South London
John McEnroe pictured with presenting partner Sue Barker, who got to the semi-finals of the competition as a player in 1977, and Paloma Faith
Former player Tim Henman (left) was a four-time semi-finalist and joined Sue Barker and John McEnroe on presenting duties
There was a party atmosphere inside the stadium as fans saw players roll back the years while John McEnroe played the role of compere for the day alongside presenter Sue Barker.
Opera singer Joseph Calleja also provided on-court entertainment in between the matches on a day that was captured on social media through the #RoofForAll hashtag.
The development is all part of a plan for Wimbledon to emerge as the frontrunner of the Slams and the latest element is what Chairman Philip Brook describes as ‘a very complex piece of engineering to deliver.’
One of the long-term ambitions of the All England Club is to build a sizeable third arena.
The new roof is likely to be used at this summer’s Wimbledon championships, in which British tennis great Andy Murray may make a comeback
One of the long-term ambitions of the All England Club is to build a sizeable third arena. Above: Court No 1 seen from outside
After Court No 1, the next largest arena is the Court Number Two, which only houses 4,000 spectators.
As well as celebrating the completion of the new roof, the event also helped to benefit homeless charities through the Wimbledon Foundation along with a silent auction.
Wimbledon now joins the Australian Open and US Open in having two roofed courts. Melbourne Park has three, while the French Open will open their first next year.
This will not be the end of improvements at the All England Club. Last year, a deal was agreed to take over the 73-acre Wimbledon Park Golf Club for £65million.
New stadia will be added, while qualifying rounds will be held on site and capacity will be increased to 40,000.