Wimbledon 2008

WHAT a difference a year makes.
Fifty weeks ago, I left the grounds of the All England Club as the clock crept towards midnight on the final Sunday.
Yesterday afternoon I returned ahead of Wimbledon 2008, which begins on Monday.
I’ve got my usual desk in the Press Centre and will also be reporting events direct from Centre, No 1 and many other courts, as well as the post-match press conferences.
After last year’s open bowl, Centre Court looks much more like its old self – but with some striking changes.
The fixed element of the new roof is now in place with the full retractable translucent roof on schedule for the 2009 Championships.

As you can see from my pics, one end of Centre Court – opposite the royal box – features a white steel structure, ready for the final phase of the roof.

The capacity has been increased to 15,000, with new wider seats replacing all those currently on Centre by 2009.
Electronic screens have replaced the traditional scoreboards at ground level in the south east and north west corners.
These will be used as both scoreboards and for Hawkeye replays.
They lack the charm of the old boards but, with the roof back, there is nowhere else to site the replay screens for player challenges.

Moving out to the older southern part of the grounds, the shell of the new No 2 court is structurally complete.
It will be ready for play in 2009.
In truth, the outside currently looks a bit like a public toilet.
But there’s a long way to go before it is finished.

The new No 2 court will have 4,000 seats, with a playing surface sunk 3.5 metres below ground level to reduce the visible profile of the mini-stadium.
The shell stands on the site of the now demolished Court 13.
Just across the way, Court 11 replaces it as a show court, with temporary stands built as a mirror image of the previous Court 13 for the 2008 Championships.

The grounds were buzzing with activity yesterday – from workers making the final preparations to players hitting balls on court.
Inevitably, just before 4pm, it started to rain.
But there’s another surprise in store for Wimbledon fans:
The forecast for Monday and Tuesday is hot and sunny.
Wimbledon 2007 Blogs
Parting Shots 2007
Wimbledon 2006 Blogs
Wimbledon Official Site
BBC Wimbledon Weather