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Fan power raises roof as Murray battles to epic win.

Byline: BRIAN DICK

Wimbledon officials needed no second invitation to show off their brand spanking new roof yesterday and Centre Court's crowd was far from reticent in testing it out. But it was the lights they needed most.

Virtually before the very first drop of rain had landed on their lush green lawns, All England Club mandarins had dispersed from their huddle and decreed that the pounds 100m facility should be given its first airing.

Amelie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina, funny to see the world No 1 on the show court, were ushered back into the changing rooms to re-emerge 40 minutes later to accept their place in pub quiz history as the first players to appear at this venue under cover.

Never mind the fact the outside courts had already resumed action by the time the air-conditioning system had made Centre Court viable, the roof was shut and the bigwigs weren't opening it for anyone. Certainly not when they had the chance to flaunt it on live television and with the nation's latest reality show, Britain's Got One Talent, putting its audience through an emotional mangle.

The scene was set for a tea-time - then bed-time - drama and as lead character Andy Murray did his best to make it an anxious episode, the paying public was concentrating on lifting the roof from its hugely expensive rollers. That that failed was a huge relief to those who parted with a small fortune for its installation but it was in no part due to a lack of effort.

Murray needed his followers against Stanislas Wawrinka and when the going got tough he was not shy to invoke their fervour and nor were they shy in providing it. The atmosphere wasn't so much electric as cacophonic.

Like a gladiator the Scot, who faces Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarter-final, drew strength from the arena only for it to ebb away as Wawrinka stuck to him like a leech. He needed all that help, too, because for four hours his Swiss opponent, eventually subdued 2-6 6-3 6-3 5-7 6-3, scared the living daylights out of anyone who fancies an end to the 73-year wait for a British champion.

"The atmosphere is always great indoors but when you have got 15,000 people supporting you it makes it extra special," he said. "In five-set tennis there are always momentum shifts but I just stayed tough. The standard he set at the start was tough to keep up with and I was getting tired towards the end." If anything, at the start, the more likely outcome was that the interval would be stretched to 74 as Wawrinka overpowered the world No 3..

With a first serve percentage close to single figures Murray lost his first two service games to go 4-0 down and even though he regained a modicum of balance towards the end of the opening set, it went to the 24-year-old.

Murray put his house in order in the second although he still had to save two break points in the fifth game. That he did so sent a charge through the stadium.

The Briton stole an advantage in the eighth game and thundered down an ace on the first of his three set points to level.

Set three went according to a similar pattern. Murray held his nerve and his serve at 2-3 and then claimed Wawrinka's for 4-3 as the Swiss's forehand started to malfunction. Murray broke to take the set and at 2-1 with his opponent looking exhausted there was only going to be one winner.

Or so Murray and 15,000 of his compatriots thought. Wawrinka refused to buckle and it was not until the 11th game that a breakthrough came - for the Swiss. When, at 9.52pm he sent down his 12th ace the match was level again.

Murray edged ahead in the decider when Wawrinka failed to deal with a low volley and then netted a routine groundstroke.

A backhand drive down the line to make it 3-0 suggested the force was with the 22-year-old from Dunblane.

But the limpet stuck to his man and hauled himself back into it for 3-3.

Murray produced some truly stunning tennis and with a drive down the line sent his followers home happy knowing he had been part of history..

INSIDE: Results, reports pages 46& 47 WEB: Add your thoughts on tennis under lights at birminghampost.net/sport

CAPTION(S):

Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka make history under the roof on Centre Court late last night
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 30, 2009
Words:755
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