The All England Lawn Tennis Club has announced that Wimbledon will no longer schedule a rest day on its middle Sunday from 2022, transitioning to a full 14-day tournament next year. The move will end one of the tournament’s core traditions, aligning it with the other three major championships.
Since Wimbledon’s inception in 1877, middle Sunday has hosted play on only four occasions – 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016 – all due to rain delaying the tournament schedule. A rest day has previously been described as a necessity for the maintenance of the grass, a delicate surface that deteriorates throughout the fortnight. According to the AELTC chairman, Ian Hewitt, improved court maintenance technology has offered the tournament the opportunity to evolve.
The change means Manic Monday, a distinct feature of Wimbledon in which all men’s and women’s fourth-round matches take place on the same day, will cease. An additional day of play means additional revenue and interest for the tournament, but Hewitt framed the decision on the benefits of increased fan access.
“It’s important at this stage of the development of the sport that Wimbledon should be even more accessible to the people who want to access it and at the times at which they are best able to,” he said. “We consider that it’s in the best interests of the tennis fans that Wimbledon should be available to be watched and attended throughout that middle weekend.”
During their annual spring press conference on Tuesday, Hewitt and the AELTC chief executive, Sally Boulton, also expanded on how this year’s tournament will function when it begins on 28 June, one week after restrictions are scheduled to be lifted across the country.
The AELTC is planning for 25% capacity based on current guidelines from the government and Public Health England but hopes the figure will grow by its next announcements scheduled in mid-June. Many features of this year’s event, including the prize money and ticketing, will be determined by the final decision on the event’s capacity.
Players will enter a controlled environment in which they are restricted to three support members, ferried from their hotel to the courts, and they will be unable to stay in private houses in Wimbledon. Those who breach protocols could be defaulted or their support teams fined up to £14,000. The tournament does not expect to offer any loosened protocols for vaccinated players.
“The minimised risk environment was an absolute requirement for the government and Public Health England to get permission to stage the tournament,” said Boulton. “Particularly to get permission to bring all of those athletes into the UK and for them to be able to avoid having to quarantine on entry into the UK.”
Wimbledon received a total payout of £180m for its pandemic insurance. The LTA, which during a normal year would acquire 90% of the tournament’s surplus, received £36m.