How the Centre Court roof changes the sound at Wimbledon

Andy Murray  wrote on Twitter about his second round match at Wimbledon 2013, “There’s a bit of me that misses there being no roof… @wimbledon still looks and sounds weird watching grass court tennis indoors.”

How does the roof affect the acoustic within the arena? how does the sound of racket on ball change and why?

From thwack to thwock

In the 2012 final at Wimbledon, Roger Federer and Andy Murray started playing with the roof open, but torrential rain forced the roof to be closed for the later sets. Listening to the start and end of the game, you can hear the difference the roof makes. The thwack last a little longer, echoes a bit more and sounds fuller.

Roof open:

Roof close (listen to the serve):

If you are struggling to hear the difference, turn up the volume and maybe put headphones on. Looking at the two waveforms, each ball strike can be seen as a spike (there are 5 in the top graph, 4 in the bottom plot). What is noticable is that the other stuff, the ‘grass’ along the middle of the plots is taller when the roof is closed.

Ball strike sounds with Wimbledon roof open and closed

Ball strike sounds with Wimbledon roof open and closed

With the roof open, sound going up towards the sky disappears never to be heard again. With the roof closed, the sound reflects off the roof and is trapped in the arena. As it bounces around these reflections are heard to elongate the thwack of the ball.

Crowd noise

The roof also traps and amplifies other sounds like the noise from the crowd and the grunting of the players. Does this enhance the experience of spectators? What do you think?

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2 responses to “How the Centre Court roof changes the sound at Wimbledon

  1. Pingback: Why Sharapova’s grunts remind me of a whip-bird | The Sound Blog

  2. Elizabeth Seideman

    I’ve watched many of former fantastic tennis players in all sorts of venues and the only sound I heard was the “whop” of a tennis ball!!! What is it with this screeching & groaning! It’s an arrogant sound meant to annoy the crowd and commentators and the other player. STOP IT ALREADY! No matter how great a player you are, those sounds are so damned annoying that I mute the game while watching! And that means you Sharapova!!!

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