It's Time To Address Wimbledon's Late Start On Centre Court

Matches have been curtailed midway through for the past two nights at Wimbledon
17:00, 10 Jul 2023

The last few days of Wimbledon have seen some outstanding tennis. Novak Djokovic has been in superb form, while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andy Murray played out a wonderful five-set tie that wowed the crowd on Centre Court. But these highlights and more have been curtailed due to the 11pm curfew in place. 

That has meant that matches have to be finished the following day, play and momentum is disrupted and the crowd often don’t get to see the finale of the matches they have invested time into. But the curfew itself isn’t the issue. In fact, with travel around London difficult at the best of times, it makes total sense. The start time of 1.30pm on Centre Court, however, is baffling. 

Essentially you are losing a couple of hours of playing time compared to the outside courts, and they have to cope with adverse weather conditions. But when spectators are paying to watch the best of the best compete, it makes sense to allow them to watch a full match of tennis, rather than just a couple of sets.


Djokovic didn’t get onto the court until 8.45pm on Sunday night and, as a result, he was only able to play two sets against Hubert Hurkacz, winning both via tie-breaks. But now his whole schedule is disrupted having had to return in the middle of Monday afternoon, when he could and should have been enjoying a rest day ahead of the quarter-finals. 

There are reasons for the late start. Viewing figures on the BBC are a priority, while giving the fans at the event time to see everything is also part of the consideration. However, one of the main reasons for this late start is due to the hospitality ticket holders. They begin their lunch at 12pm sharp, and the meals are concluded by the time play gets underway at 1.30pm. 

“Historically over many, many decades we’ve always started play on our show courts around early afternoon,” Wimbledon’s chief executive Sally Bolton said. “And that’s very much about ensuring that people have the opportunity to get on court so, as much as is possible the case, we have full courts for when the players walk on, and that’s still absolutely our intention.


“And the other thing we think carefully about is, when people buy a ticket to come to Wimbledon, they want to experience a day at the Championships and that involves going and seeing some play on outside courts, perhaps going to get something to eat, getting some strawberries and cream.

“We will have a look at that beyond this year’s Championships but that’s the real background to why we have the start time when we do. Matches are happening at a time when they’re accessible to people. We’re seeing [TV] viewing figures that are beyond our expectations and beyond previous years, so I think they probably speak for themselves.”

Full courts and viewing figures are vital to the success of the tournament, but player welfare has to move further up the pecking order. And that is before we consider the impact an overnight break in a tennis match can have on the final outcome. There’s no doubt that Murray’s momentum was halted immediately after he won the third set against Tsitsipas, and although he may have still lost, he didn’t deserve to have that taken from him. And the Greek was forced in the end into five consecutive days of action with his second-round match, like his first, being carried over into a second stint. 

Logistics make the 11pm curfew necessary. But he same cannot be said of the 1.30pm start on Centre Court, which has caused continuous disruption over the past week for fans and players alike. 

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