The first match played entirely under Wimbledon’s new retractable roof produced a five-set marathon that finished later than any previous Centre Court encounter in history.
What’s more, it ended with a British winner celebrating in front of a raucous home crowd.
Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka battled for nearly four hours on Monday under the translucent roof and stadium floodlights before the third-seeded Scot closed out a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory with a forehand winner at 10.39pm.
Murray sank to his knees and bowed his head on the grass. He then stood up and smacked a ball that hit the roof above.
“It was pretty special,” said Murray, who is bidding to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
Previously, no Centre Court match had finished later than 9.35pm.
And at a tournament that began in 1877, not a single point had been played indoors until earlier on Monday, when a light sprinkle interrupted Dinara Safina’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Amelie Mauresmo — the first rain break of the tournament after a dry first week.
After the fifth game of the second set, the roof above the main stadium was closed, and Safina and Mauresmo finished up underneath — even though by the time they resumed, the rain had stopped.
Organizers decided to keep the roof closed for the Murray-Wawrinka match in case of more rain. In the end, the rain stayed away but the roof allowed the match to reach its completion while it was dark outside.
Murray was surprised by the decision and found the playing conditions hard to get used to.
“We were warming up outside,” he said. “It was dry. Was expecting to play without the roof, and then obviously it came. I had never played a grass court match indoors before and it made a difference.”
“It’s very, very heavy and very humid,” he said. “Sweating so much. From the start I noticed it very early ... When I finished, it was like I’d been in a bath.”
The closed conditions helped magnify the partisan support from Murray’s fans in the arena.
“At the end, that was probably the noisiest crowd I played in front of,” he said.
Murray faces Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarters after the Spaniard defeated Frenchman Gilles Simon.
The Scot could now enjoy an advantage over other players who haven’t experienced the indoor conditions yet.
“Now I know how I’ll have to change my game if I do play under the roof, and I’ll know the way that the court plays,” he said. “In my opinion, there’s quite a big difference.”
The momentum on Monday swung back and forth, with Wawrinka seeming to grab the edge when he served an ace to close out the fourth set and send the match to a fifth-set decider.
Murray then ran out to a 3-0 lead, but Wawrinka responded by winning three straight games of his own.
The match turned for good when Murray broke for 5-3 with a forehand winner down the line. He served out the match in the next game.
In other action on Monday Roger Federer fired past Robin Soderling for the second time in three weeks, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) to reach the men’s quarter-finals as the pair re-ran the recent French Open final.
The 2002 champion, Lleyton Hewitt, made his sixth career comeback from two sets to love down, overcoming a thigh strain to beat Radek Stepanek 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just short of three hours.
Men’s fourth seed Novak Djokovic took a quiet win against Dudi Sela 6-2, 6-4, 6-1, while Croatian Ivo Karlovic defeated seventh seed Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), hitting 35 aces in the process.