By Randy Walker
For the first time in 100 years, Olympic tennis was played indoors.
The roof on Centre Court at Wimbledon – complete with its own @WimbledonRoof Twitter profile – was closed Sunday on the second day of Olympic tennis as torrential rains hammered the All England Club.
It marked the first time since 1912 when the Stockholm Games had a separate indoor tennis event that Olympic tennis was played indoors. The 1912 and 1908 Olympic Games, curiously, held both indoor and outdoor tennis competitions.
Julia Goerges of Germany and No. 2 seed Agnieska Radwanska of Poland had the distinction of playing the historic first indoor match of the day at the All England Club, with Goerges registering the biggest upset so far of the Games defeating the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up 7-5, 6-7, 6-4.
Also under the Wimbledon roof, No. 4 seed Andy Murray, making his return to Centre Court three weeks after being the first Brit to reach the Wimbledon men’s final in 74 years, defeated Swiss flag-bearer Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3. Murray and Warinka, in fact, played the first complete match under the roof in Wimbledon history back in 2009, Murray winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in a round of 16 match that concluded at 10:39 pm.
Maria Sharapova made her long-awaited Olympic debut also under the roof, defeating Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-2, 6-0. Sharapova said “I have been waiting for this moment since I was a little girl,” of her Olympic debut to Rennae Stubbs courtside following the match on Bravo TV. Sharapova did not compete in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, shortly after her breakthrough victory as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon, and was forced to withdraw from the 2008 Beijing Games due to her shoulder injury that hampered her career for the better part of two years.
With many first-round singles and doubles matches postponed due to the inclement weather, Olympic officials may become hard-pressed to finish the Olympic tennis event on time should rain further rain postpone a significant number of matches this week. For full Olympic tennis results and schedule information, go to www.ITFTennis.com.
When Olympic tennis was last played indoors back in 1912 in Stockholm, it was the most popular event of the Games with spectators lining up for three hours to get glimpses of the matches. The Swedish Royal family attended the matches daily. Andre Gobert of France was the surprise gold medalist in indoor men’s singles, defeating Britain’s Charles Dixon in the final. Dixon upset Wimbledon champion Tony Wilding of New Zealand in the semifinals – Wilding settling for a bronze medal. The women’s indoor tennis field only featured eight players, Edith Hannam of Britain emerging with the gold medal defeating Sophie Castenschiold of Denmark 6-4, 6-3 after trailing 0-3 in both sets.
As documented in the Kindle Ebook Olympic Tennis: An Historical Snapshot (available here for $2.99 http://www.amazon.com/Olympic-Tennis-Historical-Snapshot-ebook/dp/B008EOXW40/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343581861&sr=1-1&keywords=Olympic+Tennis) at the 1908 London Games, the indoor event was held in May at the Queens Club, while the All England Club on Worple Road conducted an outdoor event after the Wimbledon Championships were held in July. At the indoor event, Great Britain and Sweden were the only competing nations as Britain’s Arthur Gore defeated teammate George Caridia to win the gold medal in men’s singles. Gore would follow up his Olympic success by winning the men’s singles title at Wimbledon two months later. In women’s singles, Gladys Eastlake-Smith beat countrywomen Alice Greene to win gold, then got married two days later!