At Wimbledon, One Final Day of Rest and One Last Manic Monday
WIMBLEDON, England – Wimbledon ended the middle of the tournament for the last time on Sunday. The practice courts were busy, but as usual no supporters were allowed onto the pitch and no official matches were played despite the rare presence of the sun.
The players roamed the grounds in peace and Taiwanese player Hsieh Su-wei took photos on an empty Henman Hill.
So far, Wimbledon was the only tour-level event with a scheduled rest day, although the rain at times forced tournament organizers to cancel it.
Wimbledon dates back to 1877. The break is a holdover from the days when sport was not played on Sundays for religious reasons. Until 1982, the tournament ended on Saturday with the men’s singles final. But over the decades, rest Sunday has become, above all, a time for tournament players, officials, employees and neighbors to catch their collective breath.
Next year will bring change and the traditional calm of Sunday will give way to the hustle and bustle of a full day of competition as Wimbledon goes from 13 days to 14.
There are no more concerns about the playability of center court with the extra day, according to Alexandra Willis, spokesperson for the All England Club.
“We just felt like the tradition of not playing on Sundays had run its course,” said Willis. “If we were confident that center court would be able to handle an extra day’s play, why wouldn’t we open it up so everyone available on the weekend had another chance to watch and engage with Wimbledon and come to Wimbledon?
That’s a good question, and if tradition has its charms and allows all players at least a full day to savor the completion of qualifying for week two, a majority of fans are unlikely to miss it.
I did two informal social media polls: the first in April after the initial announcement of the change and the second on Sunday. In April, 74% of 2,162 people polled approved the move. On Sunday, more than 69% of the 2,000 first respondents approved.
This matches the All England Club’s research, and it is suspected that broadcasters would all agree. Why disappear from Wimbledon on a day when viewers in most parts of the world have a day off?
“They were thrilled,” Willis said of the broadcasters. “But to be very clear, it was our initiative, not theirs.”
The move will increase tournament revenue, but Willis said the main motivation is to increase its reach.
“Our modeling shows that this will give us about a 10% increase in audience figures,” she said.
The players, some of whom are enjoying the break, seem to agree. Tour officials and many players were upset when Roland Garros unilaterally scored a 15th day of play in 2006. But the move extended the duration of the tournament and impinged on other events. Wimbledon will move to its existing window.
“Everyone wants more days,” said Roger Federer, eight-time Wimbledon singles champion. “Look, more days means more income, more options, more of this and that. I understand. I don’t think they did it just because of the income. I think they just think it’s okay with time, too.
There will be a ripple effect in this so-called Manic Monday, the day normally reserved for the entire fourth round of men’s and women’s singles matches, will become considerably less manic.
It is perhaps a better concept than a reality. With all of those meaningful games vying for attention on all these different terrains, it’s a bit like collecting seashells with the tide rapidly rising.
From next year, the fourth round will be split between Sunday and Monday, aligning Wimbledon with the other three Grand Slam tournaments.
“We think this will help Monday and actually increase the audience,” Willis said. “Manic Monday, while loved by a lot of people, is actually incredibly difficult to follow, and if you think about the challenge of programming that day and covering that day, our media partners have often told us:” It’s too much tennis, and we can’t give it proper attention.
But there will still be a Manic Monday, and the weather forecast looked more promising than it has been for much of this tournament played in soggy, overcast conditions.
It might help players maintain themselves after all of the first week’s slips and falls. Even the flowing federer had fallen several times, but Wimbledon officials continued to insist that they prepare the grass as usual, mowing it to a height of 8 millimeters, and expressed their faith in the integrity of the surface.
“Obviously this was not played as it normally would be last year,” said Willis, referring to the cancellation of Wimbledon in 2020. “It was played out a bit by some of the members, but the team renovated the pitch in exactly the same way, so it’s new grass.
Of the remaining 16 men, only Federer and world No.1 Novak Djokovic won a singles title at Wimbledon.
Of the 16 women, only Angelique Kerber won the tournament, and none of the other contenders even made it past the quarter-finals.
While Djokovic remained the big favorite for the men’s title, the women’s draw again seemed particularly open. For the first time in the Open era, two wild cards have reached the round of 16 – Liudmila Samsonova of Russia and Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old ranked 338th Briton who is making her first appearance in a round-level event.
Five of Monday’s eight clashes are debutants, and no clash has been played more than twice. It is a sign of the attrition of women’s tennis. But if there were only five of the top 16 seeds left, part of that was because the seeds don’t reflect the players’ current form at this point, with the standings partially frozen due to the pandemic.
The live points race throughout the season seems a better indication of reality, and the top four players – Ashleigh Barty, Barbora Krejcikova, Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek – are still on the hunt.
Two Americans remain, Madison Keys and Coco Gauff, 17, who will face Kerber on center court in one of the best clashes on Monday. Others have drawn attention, including 21st-seeded Swiatek against Ons Jabeur, Sabalenka against 18th-seeded Elena Rybakina, and Barty against Krejcikova, who is on a 15-game winning streak and has just won the French Open.
On the men’s side, Sebastian Korda, an unranked American who is playing his first Wimbledon, will celebrate his 21st birthday by facing the 25th seed, Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
Of the 16 men, only Djokovic, Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon. Bautista lost to Djokovic in the 2019 semi-final before Djokovic rallied to defeat Federer in the final after saving two match points.
A rematch isn’t ruled out, but Federer, at 39, will likely have to beat three seeds to reach another final. The first of them is No.23 Lorenzo Sonego, a dynamic and demonstrative Italian with a lot of flair who will be as rested as Federer and everyone else on the pitch after the last Wimbledon fallow on Sunday.
Ben rothenberg contributed reports.
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