Wimbledon have denied trying to introduce night matches in a bid to boost prime-time TV ratings after Novak Djokovic became the latest player to complain about late arrivals on center court .
Some of the world’s best tennis players have criticized late starts on the Wimbledon courts at this year’s tournament, saying matches were disrupted by poor lighting.
Djokovic, the men’s top seed, said the late arrivals effectively turned Wimbledon into an indoor tournament, with the later matches interrupted by the closing of the roof in order to turn on the floodlights.
The defending champion’s four-set triumph in the fourth round over wildcard Tim van Rijthoven ended on Sunday with just 21 minutes to spare before the All England Club’s (AELTC) 11pm curfew.
The players changed their schedule after games on center court were pushed back from 1 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. last year. Wimbledon also introduced a 20-minute break and on-court talks between matches.
“I don’t see why there wouldn’t be an earlier start, to be honest, especially now that there are on-the-spot interviews that we didn’t have until a few years ago,” he said. said Djokovic.
“Also the time between games you will almost certainly – if you are scheduled last on Center – you will finish a game 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 cases when you’re scheduled last on center or court 1.”
The changes were reportedly implemented after discussions between the AELTC and the BBC, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast the championships. The BBC is said to have already paid £60million a year for the rights.
Sally Bolton, the AELTC’s chief executive, defended the Wimbledon schedule on Monday, saying there were no plans to bring forward start times or introduce night matches.
Asked about the balance between the desire to get matches in the prime time televised slot machine and the wishes of the players, she said: “The reality of hosting a tennis event is that once you start the day, you have no idea when the day is going to end. to end. It’s quite unpredictable.
“I think it’s understandable that players provide feedback on their experience at the Championships and of course we take all of that into account when we think about how we plan our days.
“There have been no significant changes to the schedule, we will always take into account the feedback we receive and watch what we do.”
She also defended the breaks in games, saying it allowed spectators “to have fun, to eat, to go to the bathroom”.
TV viewership peaked at 4.5 million in double Wimbledon champion Andy Murray’s match on Monday and 5.3 million in his clash against American John Isner on Wednesday.
Murray also complained about the schedule after his match against Australian James Duckworth was interrupted for 10 minutes as the roof closed. Duckworth twice complained about the quality of the light as the sun began to set.
“It’s not that easy, changing conditions like that, and also having breaks like that, potentially key points in games. I much prefer to play outside. I prefer to play away when we can,” Murray said after his four-set victory.
“I wish there was a way to finish away games more often because it’s hard to stop for 10, 12 minutes in the middle of a game at important stages. dynamic. You calm down a bit too. Again, it’s a change of conditions.