Wimbledon’s first week has been plagued with rain, so much in fact that the tournament was forced to break tradition for only the 4th time in history by allowing play on the middle Sunday to catch up to schedule. The issue is that you obviously can’t control rain, but what you can control is the schedule and this year there’s not only been stupid decisions but it’s been downright disrespectful. Just looking at 2007 alone it’s pretty clear that it’s something we should expect though; despite Wimbledon not having a roof back then the bottom half was severely hampered more by the rain and strange scheduling with the timing of matches given the forecasts.
Let’s just get the most obvious one out of the way first. 2-time defending champion and world #1 Novak Djokovic lost to Sam Querrey on Court 1. While there’s nothing in that statement alone to show the bias, when you look into it deeper there is. Within the first few rounds the top male seeds should have been rotated off Centre Court; it’s what has been done the last few years anyway. Last year Andy Murray played his Round 2 match on Court 1 and Rafael Nadal his 1st. But this year 2nd and 3rd seeds Andy Murray and Roger Federer weren’t. If anything maybe they were planning to take Murray and Federer off Centre Court for the latter rounds, but that’s assuming they even make it that far–as it was with Djokovic and Federer in last year’s event, with one playing their R4 match on Court 1 and the other their QF match. It’s also said that Andy Murray had asked to play his Round 2 match against Lu on Court 1 but yet was scheduled on Centre Court this year.
Wimbledon’s Scheduling Is an Unfair Biased Joke
As it stands, in the first three rounds of Wimbledon Djokovic had on paper by far the hardest opponent of any of those three–Sam Querrey, a man who had beaten him before with a huge game enough to match anyone. In contrast, 7-time champion Federer had the likes of a man ranked outside the top 700 and Murray not a top 60 player in the first three rounds. There’s no reason why Djokovic, given his far superior opponent, should have been on Court 1 while the other two weren’t, regardless of the others having a few British opponents.
On the day the World #1 was scheduled to play Sam Querrey, there was a 60% chance of rain. With all the rain delays before and during the match as well as Djokovic himself saying he would have been more comfortable on Centre Court, who knows, maybe if the match was on Centre Court the result would have been very different. Can you imagine crowd favorites Federer or especially Murray being put on Court 1 given that likelihood of rain?
Furthermore due to the rain, 5-time champion Venus Williams was put out on Court 18, Wimbledon’s 6th main court. After the match she would go onto say “I wasn’t unhappy to play on Court 18… I just want equality for men’s and women’s matches”. After that Roger Federer said “Credit to myself for maybe winning as much as I did here in previous years that I do get put on either Centre Court or 1”. I guess we can blame Venus Williams for only winning five Wimbledon titles, perhaps if she had just another two more she wouldn’t have been on Court 18.
However, there clearly won’t be equality at Wimbledon. I mean in the past they’ve even been accused of putting seemingly more attractive women on Centre Court (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196155/Babe-set-match-How-looks-count-talent-Wimbledon-decides-girls-play-Centre-Court.html). For the gentlemen’s event the schedulers are reluctant to take the top few male players off Centre Court on a regular basis, playing the long game assuming that if they all do make it to the latter rounds then the rotation may work. However, as shown in the last few years, more often than not a player from the “Big 4” loses early–such as Rafael Nadal in recent years, Roger Federer in 2013, and Novak Djokovic this year.
Let’s look at some lower ranked players and this is where it perhaps get even worse. Just taking an example American John Isner started his Round 1 match on Wednesday and every day since he had gone out and played until losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 19-17th in the 5th on the middle Sunday. Put in mind that before he had even completed 2 sets of his Round 1 match there were several players in the third round already, namely Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer, those who had been on Centre Court. Should players even be allowed to play their next round matches when others still haven’t completed the previous round? That’s a question that should be asked and discussed. Even on the women’s side on day 6 of the championships 2-time champion Petra Kvitova had still not completed her Round 2 match, while others were in the 4th round.
This is exactly why one roof at a major just doesn’t do any favours during the first week of a Slam. Sure, people want to watch tennis when it’s raining but at the same time it only benefits those lucky enough to be on Centre Court. You just have to look at the amount of players who themselves have called out the situation. Del Potro, the US Open 2009 champion, squandered breaks in several sets only to lose them due to tiredness; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a 2-time semifinalist here said the scheduling was “unfair”. They even postponed his Round 2 match for several days, meaning like many others he had to play for three or more consecutive days. Yesterday rising star Zverev shared the same thoughts, claiming he missed a lot because he was very tired having to play so often day after day in his loss to 10th seed Tomas Berdych. Putting it simply it’s unfair, at any Slam, especially the biggest event in our sport, no one should have to play consecutive days let alone five in a row in some cases. Would Isner have won if he wasn’t jaded? Who knows, but there’s a fair argument for it.
Now all of these men who have had to play consecutive days already and will now have to play yet another day of play on Manic Monday. I mean even if Isner won yesterday he would have played six days in a row and that’s just ridiculous! This brings another issue of scheduling up: yesterday Vesely and Sousa were yet to begin their Round 3 match as neither had played on Saturday. The winner would then have to go out Monday and play their Round 4 match. For some strange reason they started their Round 3 match at 4pm Sunday. Thankfully, for the sake of the winner, Vesely, he won comfortably. But there’s simply no reason whatsoever why that match wasn’t started earlier on in the day; had it gone to five sets or so the scheduling would look like an even bigger joke than it already does.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out the organizers favor a Federer vs Murray final. After all, they’re the 2 biggest draws to the men’s event. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself but that might just be the final we get for reasons we don’t want to hear. Wimbledon court speeds have always been questionable; the outside courts have always been faster. Now it’s likely both Federer and Murray will play all their matches on Centre Court. There’s also a possibility that if they both keep on winning that every opponent they play up before the final will play their first match on Centre Court against them. That’s perhaps rather unfair when these two men will be fully used to the court while their opponents will have to adapt given how different the courts play at Wimbledon.
At the end of the day it’s pretty clear what I think about the scheduling of Wimbledon, especially this year’s event. They’ve let a few players run away with a huge advantage while leaving everyone else to feed off scraps and tire themselves to a point where it’s arguably not even about how good they are but how tired they are in terms of them winning. There are also some solutions which could have been used–how about alternating more players off and on Centre Court? Or how about starting Centre Court matches earlier and including more matches? A few years ago Murray beat Baghdatis at 11.02pm at night. This year Centre Court has been left unused for most days in the evening. If the organizers could have even fit a match or two every night after play should have ended on Centre Court it would have made the tournament at least a little more fair on others. As it stands, however, like I’ve said before one roof just doesn’t work during the first week at Slams. To be effective it needs to be like the Australian Open, 3 roofs where many can play their matches if the threat of rain is there. Considering how Wimbledon has a history of rain, it’s rather pathetic that the biggest event in our sport still only has one roof given we’re in the 21st century.