Grand slam tennis venues across the world cover up to banish rain – and impromptu Cliff Richard performances.
Centre court, the centrepiece of the Wimbledon tennis championships, is to get a transparent plastic roof to prevent matches being rained off.

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, which hosts Wimbledon, is understood to believe that a retractable roof would retain the open-air environment of the Centre Court while avoiding expensive postponements.

Flushing Meadow, the New York venue for the US Open, and Roland Garros, the Paris venue for the French Open, are also considering retractable roofs for their main courts. Melbourne Park, which hosts the Australian Open, has two covered courts and is considering creating a third.

Architect HOK Sport is thought to be drawing up the plans for the Wimbledon roof. It is possible that the designs will be unveiled after the upcoming championship finishes on 6 July.

HOK was involved in changes to the royal box and the club lounge at Centre Court.

Tennis is big business. Tournaments have to deliver their TV signals

Source close to All England club

A source close to the All England club said: "The roof would be clear to allow in natural light. Glass is very heavy, but there are a number of clever plastics around. The club is looking at a bunch of different materials. The key is to avoid shadows from the roof."

The source added: "Tennis is big business. The tournaments have to be certain of delivering their television signals across the world."

In 2001, the men's final at Wimbledon between Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter lost viewers because it had to be postponed from Sunday to Monday. It was the first time the final had started on a Monday since 1922.

Rod Sheard, a senior principal at HOK, declined to comment on Wimbledon, but said: "All the grand slam tennis organisations are looking at being able to control their environments."

A spokesperson for the All England club said that plans for the Centre Court roof were being drawn up. "There will be a range of options. We are doing various bits of modelling to decide the best route," he said.

The proposed roof for the centre court at the US Open is unlikely to be made of a clear plastic. Unlike Wimbledon, the venue is used for music concerts.

A market source said: "There are different conditions for Flushing Meadow. It would have to be a black-box type of a deal for good acoustics."

Wimbledon's build programme can only take place on nine months of the year.