Wimbledon: Supreme Court

Wimbledon: Supreme Court

Tennis stars celebrate the new roof on No.1 Court and come together to help the homeless of Merton and Wandsworth

Before the first ball had been served at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, a star-studded line-up of players including Venus Williams, Jamie Murray, Pat Cash and Martina Navratilova, together with crowds of fans, flocked to the immaculate lawns of SW19 for a special afternoon of tennis and music to celebrate the completion of the No.1 Court roof project. The event not only gave the new roof a test run but more importantly raised money for key charities around the local area.

After playing his mixed doubles match, alongside Kim Clijsters, Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe, Brit tennis star Jamie Murray said: “It was a lot of fun and such a cool thing to be a part of. I remember watching on TV when they had the opening of the Centre Court roof and it was a really iconic moment for the Club and I’m sure this is as well.”

Discussing how the roof impacts the atmosphere on No.1 Court, Jamie added: “Well, it’s louder, obviously, I mean the noise doesn’t get lost. Everything’s enclosed so you probably get a better atmosphere.”

This was Jamie’s first return to the SW19 courts in front of fans this year and it seems the novelty doesn’t waver. “I love it,” Jamie says. “I’m fortunate enough to be a member here so I can come and use the Club during the year but it’s totally different to when

The Championships run and you’re playing in front of a lot of people, and we always get great support. For me it’s always fun to come out and play in front of a lot of people. That’s what inspired me or motivated me growing up, to try to be a professional tennis player.”

A Roof For All

Two years in the planning and three years in build, for the first time in 142 years, No.1 Court’s spectators and players were shielded from the elements by a brand new retractable roof.

Thrilled to also be back on the courts of Wimbledon, Venus Williams said: “It was surreal being able to be back here without the tournament. It made me actually really grateful to be able to play this game and have some reflection over the years. It was a great experience.”

Commenting on the new roof, Venus said: “You hear that echo of the ball and you hear the crack. It is like a whip. It was great to not only be out here for the opening but for a great cause.”

The cause Venus refers to is the Wimbledon Foundation, the charity of The All England Lawn Tennis Club and The Championships This year, the Wimbledon Foundation has partnered with the London Community Foundation to create a fund for the homeless named ‘A Roof For All’, which will be the beneficiary of a proportion of ticket proceeds from The No.1 Court celebration.

While No.1 Court will have a roof from this year onwards, an increasing number of Londoners are forced to live without a roof over their heads. The new fund will help to tackle homelessness locally in Merton and Wandsworth. The fund will provide grants to homelessness charities operating in the local areas to help them increase their capacity and sustainability while delivering invaluable services for the homeless. Further funds will be used to help larger pan-London charities.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Councillor Tobin Byers said: “Homelessness can affect anyone at any time for many reasons. The new funding will enable our community to do more to support homeless people, many of whom are facing multiple and complex challenges.”

Wimbledon now joins the Australian Open and US Open in having two roofed courts. Melbourne Park has three, while the French Open will open its first next year. Martina Navratilova, who played in the mixed doubles show match, believes the atmosphere will be even more electric with the new roof.

“The sound definitely stays in,” says Martina. “It definitely gets louder. When everybody applauded… it really reverberates and it’s great and it makes you feel a part of it.”

Also returning to No.1 court was fan favourite Pat Cash who battled it out in the gentlemen’s doubles. “Well, what a fantastic Club, I have the opportunity because I live in London to come in and visit the Club, but to get to play on Centre Court or Court 1, it just doesn’t happen,” says Pat.

“Even as a member I might be able to sort of wink at the groundsman and say ‘can you get me Court 2 or 3’, and they’ll go ‘oh maybe’, but never Court 1 and never with this beautiful new roof, it really does feel like Centre Court. I’ve always loved Court 1, it’s just a little closer and it’s just got a great atmosphere and now with the roof it’s just fantastic.”

This year’s Wimbledon Championships run 1 to 14 July.