At 10 a.m., four hours before the first ball was due to be struck in this year's Wimbledon tennis championships, it was pouring rain. By 11:30, the sun had all but dried up the puddles.

At 1:32, with tarpaulins still covering the 15 courts at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, it began to mist. By 1:40, the mist was a steady drizzle.

"English weather," shrugged an umpire awaiting duty in an early match. "If you pop into the gents' for a minute, you might miss the summe."

"If the weather were the most important thing," added David Gray, general secretary of the International Tennis Federation, "They would play this tournament in Bermuda."

But at 2:06, when the crew of linesmen strode out to take their places for the match between three-time champion Bjorn Borg and Tom Gorman, half of them carried raincoats over their arms.

By 2:32, they needed them. At 2:43, after another mist had turned to a steady downpour, the match was interrupted with Gorman leading, 4-3 in the first set.

Over at Court No. 1 - the smaller, adjacent stadium - John McEnroe was playing Terry Moor. He led 4-2 when the rain became discouraging. He wanted to stop, but the umpire said he must await a decision from the referee.

Finally word came to suspend play. Several times over the course of the next hour the rain stopped, but as quickly as groundsmen could remove the tarps, it started again.

Finally, at 3:46, play resumed on Centre Court. "The match was delayed for 1 hour and 3 minutes when the weather got into the court and couldn't be got out," explained the BBC Radio commentator to his audience.