PA Sport

Wimbledon to have play on middle Sunday for first time in 12 years

Wimbledon to have play on middle Sunday for first time in 12 years
By PA Sport

01/07/2016 at 22:57Updated 01/07/2016 at 23:00

Wimbledon will have play on its middle Sunday for the first time since 2004 as tournament organisers battle to deal with a backlog of matches.

The situation became more serious on Friday as a rain-disrupted afternoon and evening saw the schedule badly hit.

Heavy rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday had already caused the schedulers a major headache that they hope will be relieved by the extra day's play.

Wimbledon announced on Twitter: "There will be play on Middle Sunday. Details announced 1pm tomorrow. All tickets to be purchased in advance online, none available on day."

A Wimbledon spokesman said the tournament was 78 matches behind schedule, the bulk of which is accounted for by doubles.

However with the threat of more rain on Saturday, it could fall even further off course, necessitating the comfort buffer of an extra day.

It will be another 'People's Sunday', as the extra day's play was described in 1991, 1997 and 2004, with tickets for all courts to be available to the public.

Unlike 12 years ago, when it was a pay-on-the-gate affair for spectators, this time tennis fans will need to buy their tickets online.

The tournament's objective will be to ensure all third-round singles, and as many doubles as possible, are completed by the end of the weekend.

Press Association Sport had earlier revealed talks were being held behind the scenes about possible Sunday play.

Play on Centre Court has continued through the week, because of the retractable roof that makes it an all-weather stadium.

But elsewhere the tournament has been plagued by showers and occasionally heavy rain.

Andy Murray - on a day off - was forced to abandon his practice session because of the rain, while many players waited in frustration for the dark clouds to clear.

A fuller explanation of the decision was released, and it outlined that any household would be restricted to just two tickets, seemingly ruling out the prospect of it being a day for families to make the trip.

The statement said: "The All England Club has confirmed that on account of the poor weather experienced to date in the first week, play will take place on Middle Sunday - 3 July - for the fourth time in Wimbledon's history (previously 1991, 1997 and 2004).

"The move has been made in order to reduce the backlog of matches and to allow the championships to finish as scheduled. Tickets will only be available for purchase in advance online on a first-come first-served basis with a limit of two per household. None will be available for sale on the day."

In 2004, play on the Wednesday and Saturday of the opening week was lost to wet weather. Wimbledon then put 28,000 tickets on sale for the Sunday, and fans queued overnight to secure a prime position.

The backlog then was such that of the 376 matches that should have been played by the end of Saturday, only 262 were completed. This time it could be a similar number.

Tim Henman, who beat Hicham Arazi on the middle Sunday in 2004, said after that match that 'People's Sunday' should become an annual event. Henman now sits on the order of play committee at Wimbledon.

Such unique days can see the Wimbledon atmosphere ramped up by the enthusiasm of fans who have never been to the tournament and seize the unexpected chance.

Tournament groundsmen will not be enthused by the development though, as the middle Sunday is an opportunity to tend to the courts at the midway stage.