Wimbledon defends roof policy after rain issues

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Wimbledon organizers defended their Centre Court roof policy on Tuesday after Novak Djokovic’s opening match was delayed for 80 minutes after a rain shower made the grass too slippery.

Djokovic was leading by a set with light rain falling on Monday before the retractable roof, installed at a cost of a reported 80 million pounds ($102 million) in 2009, was closed.

Play did not resume, however, as the grass had become damp and despite the efforts of a jovial Djokovic, with a towel, and ground staff with leaf-blowers, a frustrating delay occurred.

With a state-of-the-art air conditioning system, play is supposed to resume no more than 30 minutes after the switch is pressed to close the roof.

So the longer delay left defending champion and No. 2 seed Djokovic and his Argentine opponent Pedro Cachin mystified, as was the crowd, especially as play resumed quickly on Court 1.

“It was very strange that for more than an hour the situation was not changing at all for the better,” said Djokovic, who won 6-3 6-3 7-6(4) after the roof reopened.

Tournament organizers said in a statement that player safety was always the priority in such circumstances.

“Every care is taken by the Championships Referee when checking the courts are fit for play following a rain delay, as player safety is our top priority,” the statement said. “In this instance, Centre Court took longer to dry than anticipated. Furthermore, given indications that the rain was due to stop imminently, the decision was taken to resume play with the roof open.

“The players were regularly updated during this time.”

The roof will be tested again Tuesday with rain expected throughout the day.

Defending women’s champion Elena Rybakina was scheduled first on Centre Court, and the match is likely to be played with the roof closed throughout.

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