Novak Djokovic has been the latest tennis star to complain about Wimbledon’s late finishes on Centre Court due to bad light. However, tournament CEO Sally Bolton has denied claims suggesting changes to the start times on Centre Court and Court 1 are to boost TV ratings amid the tournament’s £60million-a-year deal with the BBC.
On Sunday, Djokovic progressed into the Wimbledon quarter-finals with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory over wildcard Tim van Rijthoven on Centre Court. But due to being last on display, the No 1 seed wrapped up his triumph just 21 minutes before the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s 11pm curfew.
And in the aftermath, Djokovic complained that he was playing an ‘indoor tournament’ when scheduled to feature last on Centre Court, particularly lamenting the 1.30pm start of play and 20-minute breaks between matches. He said: “I don’t see a reason why there wouldn’t be an earlier start, to be honest, particularly now that there are on-court interviews that we didn’t have up to a few years ago.
“Also, the time between the matches, you almost certainly – if you’re scheduled last on the Centre – you’re going to end up a match under the roof, which changes the conditions, the style of play, the way you move on the court. It’s more slippery. The lights. It’s really an indoor tournament in most of the cases when you’re scheduled last on Centre or Court 1.”
But Bolton has hit back at Djokovic, stating that Wimbledon can’t control how long the matches on Centre Court go on and that players are in action much later at other Grand Slams. “The reality of running a tennis event is that once you start the day, you have no idea when the day is going to finish,” Bolton explained.
“So matches are long, short – so it’s pretty unpredictable, and when we look at the scheduling, we think as much as we can about what the day is going to look like, but ultimately once the players walk onto court, we don’t have any control over how long matches run for.
“So yes, we have seen some matches go late this year, and we think about that in the scheduling process, but we are certainly not moving to night sessions, and we are not seeking to have players playing late. But of course, other Grand Slams, they are playing far later into the evening – it’s not a particularly unusual occurrence for players at Grand Slams.”
Despite her stern response, she admitted that Wimbledon would continue considering player feedback when planning their days throughout the tournament. She added: “I think it’s understandable that players are providing feedback on the experience that they’re having at the Championships.
“And, of course, we take account of all of that as we think about the way in which we plan our days. There haven’t been significant changes to the schedule. We will always take account of the feedback we receive and look at what we do.”