They shopped for souvenirs, sipped bottomless cups of tea and huddled under rain ponchos and plush wool Pashminas. But Wimbledon's faithful tennis fans ultimately were turned away disappointed Friday, as play was abandoned shortly before 8 p.m.
Tournament organizers did their best to deliver the full slate of action promised, highlighted by the two men's semifinals. Up first on Centre Court was defending champion Roger Federer against the gifted Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, who had yet to lose a set this tournament. That was to be followed by No. 2 seed Andy Roddick, the sole American left in the men's draw, against the unseeded Croatian Mario Ancic.
But plans were vexed by a succession of showers that passed over southwest London, the last one persistent enough to suspend play for 4 hours 43 minutes.
It was no doubt frustrating for the players, who were forced to shuffle on and off the court four times as groundskeepers scurried to cover the grass with tarps. When efforts to complete the matches were finally abandoned, Federer was leading Grosjean 4-3 in the third set, having swept through the first two sets with relative ease, 6-2, 6-3.
Wimbledon officials rescheduled the order of play after the second rain delay in hopes of completing both men's matches, moving the Roddick-Ancic match to Court 1 to be played concurrently with the resumption of the Federer-Grosjean match.
Roddick won the first set 6-4 in 34 minutes and led 4-3 in the second set when play was halted. Known as the fastest server in the game, Roddick failed to register a single ace against the 6-foot-5 Ancic, who handled Roddick's power well. Ancic, in turn, aced Roddick six times and followed his best serves to the net with good results.
But with massive serves and Roddick's howitzer-like forehands dictating the points, the match lacked the artistry that marked the Federer-Grosjean contest.
It has been one of the wetter Wimbledons on record. The first two days of the tournament were interrupted by showers several times, and two entire days were lost to rainouts the first week.
Plans are in the works for a roof over Centre Court, but those are several years off.