Sometimes, somebody, somewhere has a brilliant idea.
It is not recorded whose masterstroke it was to invite Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf to be two of the four players chosen to play the exhibition Centre Court Celebration event under the new roof, but – whoever it was – give that person a gold star.
If there is a more popular, higher-achieving couple in tennis history, then it is a tad difficult to come up with their names. When asked just before their mixed doubles match which of them would be calling the shots on court, Agassi knew his place.
He may be one of just four men in history to have won all four Grand Slam titles but he feels that even that just doesn’t cut it by comparison with the achievements of his wife.
“I defer to 22 Slams, definitely,” said Agassi. “She moves better than me, and she looks better than me.”
Actually, on that last point in particular, the fact is that at 39 and with two children Steffi Graf still appears to possess precisely the physique she owned 21 years ago, the year she won the “Golden Slam” of all four majors plus Olympic gold.
But actually it was her husband who hit the first really killer stroke of their mixed doubles match against Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters, with his very first serve of the match.
Initially Agassi grinned sheepishly at the Belgian, requesting that she at least stand a little further behind the baseline to receive his first serve. But when he delivered a whistling ace, it was clear that his old habit of hitting the ball as hard as possible is one he has not lost.
Later it emerged with unintentional clarity again, when Agassi drove a powerful backhand into Clijsters’ midriff, causing her to reel away, much to his embarrassment. Graf gave her husband a few whacks with her racket in mock disgust.
The whole day was, of course, littered with smiles and jokes on court – and, in the mixed doubles, not infrequent kisses between Mr and Mrs Agassi.
Graf and Clijsters, too, enjoyed their in-jokes. An early rally became, at first unintentionally and then as rather a good running gag, an organised duopoly of a dozen forehands between the two women, with their male counterparts left standing so idle that their hands were literally on their hips. The punchline came when Clijsters eventually delivered the ball to Agassi, only for him to fumble the required volley into the net.
Little wonder that the crowd lapped it up, one person calling out near the end: “Come on, Mr and Mrs!” But it was their opponents who prevailed in the tie-break, whereupon all four exchanged kisses at the net – including, comically, Agassi and Henman.
“I just want to say that my wife is so much better at tennis than Tim’s wife,” joshed Agassi, as Lucy Henman grinned at courtside. “But really, I don’t know if I ever smiled as much on a tennis court.”
For a man who has himself brought so many smiles to Wimbledon over nearly two decades, that’s a big statement – and a definite thumbs-up to whoever it was who decided the launch of a new roof was a good occasion for Centre Court to host its own version of Mr & Mrs.