Sport Tennis Wimbledon’s shake-up as it returns after COVID-induced break

Wimbledon’s shake-up as it returns after COVID-induced break

Australia's Ash Barty in action on the Wimbledon grass in 2019. Photo: Getty
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A returning Wimbledon will break with tradition by scrapping its day of rest on the middle Sunday of the tournament.

Wimbledon is the only grand slam that has a day off during the fortnight but this can create scheduling challenges, particularly when there is bad weather in the first week.

All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said technological developments in the care of grass tennis courts meant 14 days of play was now possible.

“This provides us with an opportunity at an important time to make this move,” Mr Hewitt said.

“We consider it’s in the best interests of tennis fans and the sport that Wimbledon should be able to be watched and attended throughout that middle weekend.”

The change means fourth-round matches, which have all traditionally been played on a packed day known as Manic Monday, will – from 2022 – be held across two days, including the Sunday.

Play has been held on middle Sunday only four times in the past 30 years – most recently in 2016 – when delays during the first week made it necessary.

The tournament will return in 2021 after it was cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was Wimbledon’s first cancellation since World War II.

Mr Hewitt revealed that Wimbledon’s foresight in taking out pandemic insurance paid off to the tune of just over £180 million ($A322 million).

Wimbledon is working closely with the British government on arrangements for this year’s tournament, beginning on June 28, and a lot will depend on guidance at the time.

A minimum capacity of 25 per cent – up to 10,000 fans a day – is planned, with the hope that this can increase. Tickets are expected to go on sale in June.

The All England Club has already confirmed there will be no queuing for tickets. Fans often queue overnight to snap up tickets to popular Wimbledon matches.

wimbledon rest day
Wimbledon’s crowds will be much thinner, with capacity capped at a quarter. Photo: Getty

The club described 2021’s ticketing planning as “exceptionally challenging”.

It has not ruled out Henman Hill being accessible to spectators in some form. Henman Hill – often also known by other nicknames, such as Murray Mound, after British stars – is a grassy amphitheatre within the club’s grounds that has traditionally been used by crowds to watch matches on a big screen.

Players will have to stay in designated hotels and will have their freedoms severely limited.

The restrictions were a government requirement to allow such a large number of people into the country without quarantining.

“I think players really understand what the tournament’s trying to achieve here keeping the sport moving, and I think buy into the need to be part of these environments in order for them to continue to go about their jobs,” Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said.

-with AAP