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Stars play under Wimbledon roof

Tim Henman, Kim Clijsters, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf

Highlights - Graf/Agassi v Henman/Clijsters

Wimbledon saw play take place under cover for the first time on Sunday in a star-studded event to test the new retractable roof over Centre Court.

Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters played mixed doubles and singles matches, watched by a crowd of 15,000 as rain fell outside.

The roof had earlier unfolded without a hitch as singers Faryl Smith and Katherine Jenkins sang 'Amazing Grace'.

Andy Murray made a surprise appearance, describing the roof as "beautiful".

Three-time champion Boris Becker was among the invited guests looking on, and five-time champion Roger Federer sent a video message from Madrid where he was taking on current Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in the Masters final.

Wimbledon roof provides rain 'insurance'

"So often do we just wait around (during rain delays)," said Federer. "I know that can be fun too, but maybe after a few days you want to see a match. For me it's nice to see that Wimbledon is taking such a big step in the right direction."

Henman and Clijsters won the opening mixed doubles set 7-6 (7-5), and afterwards the Briton told BBC Sport: "It's fantastic.

"Everybody who arrived here today saw it's a pretty miserable day outside but when the roof is closed it's the most fabulous playing conditions.

"It's a lot warmer than it was but there's no excuses with the condition of the court."

Clijsters added: "I think the court plays really well, there's no problem with the roof or anything."

Agassi, the 1992 champion, clearly had fun teaming up with his wife - and 22-time Grand Slam champion - Graf.

"We quickly settled in and just enjoyed it so much, I don't know if I've ever enjoyed myself so much on a tennis court," said the American.

Kim Clijsters reacts to getting hit by Andre Agassi

Clijsters feels force of Agassi return

"This was amazing. The way the ball sounds in here is going to add so much intensity for the players."

And Graf added: "I've been so nervous the last few hours but it actually felt amazing, it was spectacular."

Agassi beat Henman 6-4 in a competitive singles, sealing it with a rasping forehand down the line, before Clijsters and Graf closed proceedings, with the Belgian winning 6-4.

As the final match progressed, heavy rain began to fall outside and the new lights on Centre Court were called into action amid the gathering gloom.

The All England Club began work on the multi-million pound roof in 2006 in order to prevent rain interrupting showpiece matches at future championships.

As part of the redevelopment, the capacity of Centre Court was expanded from 13,800.

Asked if there were plans to cover Number One Court in the near future, All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie told Sportsweek: "We've had to rebuild Centre Court from the bottom up, it's taken three years in construction terms and considerably longer in planning.

"It would be tricky to look at a roof on Number One Court but we wouldn't rule anything out in future. I'm sure it'll be on the agenda but it's not a priority at the moment."



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see also
Wimbledon set for late finishes
21 Apr 09 |  Tennis
Centre Court roof set for trial
16 Dec 08 |  Tennis
US Open set to approve roof plan
07 Sep 08 |  Tennis
Firm wins 1m Wimbledon roof deal
01 Jun 08 |  South west
Wimbledon's roof: The lowdown
06 Jan 04 |  Tennis
Wimbledon to build roof
06 Jan 04 |  Tennis


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