For the fourth time in its 139-year-old history, there will be play on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon as rain wreaks havoc

For the fourth time in its 139-year-old history, there will be play on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon as rain wreaks havoc

WIMBLEDON – The theory behind the quiet middle Sunday at Wimbledon is that the grass, bruised and stressed and overworked and tuckered out, needs a full day of rest, watering and other TLC to withstand the rigors of the second week.

The fans at home don't like it much, because it's a full day without any live tennis in the middle of a Grand Slam. Only Wimbledon does this; the French Open, in fact, begins on a Sunday, plays on the middle Sunday and ends on a third Sunday.

But they fans are among the few because most involved in the tournament – security guards, volunteers, stewards, concession employees and journalists – appreciate the one-day breather before the resultant "Manic Monday", when all the fourth-round matches on both the men's and women's side are usually scheduled. The players have rarely complained about it, either.

The All-England Club does its utmost to avoid having any play on that day. But with all the rain in the first week at this year's Wimbledon, and some imbalances in the progression through the draw for some players – Hello, Roger Federer – they began pondering it seriously Friday.

By the end of the day, when what play there had been was cut short by more showers, they made the call, with further details to be available Saturday.

Federer is already into the fourth round while 19-year-old Alexander Zverev, the No. 24 seed, remains early in the fifth set of his second-round match against Mikhail Youzhny.

Like Roger Federer, Venus Williams is through. Sister Serena got a scare Friday, got through, but is a round behind. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Like Roger Federer, Venus Williams is through. Sister Serena got a scare Friday, got through, but is a round behind. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

The women aren't better off. Former champion Venus WIlliams, who went into overtime before beating No. 29 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 10-8 in the third set Friday, is into the fourth round. So is No. 12 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who won her match out on anonymous Court No. 11, relocated there halfway through the day in an attempt to get the match in. Originally, there was no play scheduled on that court.

Two-time champion Petra Kvitova, No. 11 seed Timea Bacsinszky and No. 18 seed Sloane Stephens (also relocated to Court 11), weren't able to finish their matches, and they're still stuck in the second round.

Federer, blessed with a Centre Court assignment two matches in a row partly because he's Federer, partly because he had a British opponent on both occasions, couldn't remember if he had played the last time there was tennis on the middle Sunday, 12 years ago. He doesn't think he did, but maybe he did.

One thing he does know is that this year, he won't.

He can kick back and wait for everyone to dodge the raindrops the next two days. While there's no doubt the Swiss star caught a break, he also pointed out that all the years of success here have to count for something – in this case, getting to play on Centre Court with its weatherproof roof – so the payback is coming now, and he's earned it. At the very least, he'll take it.

"Look, I got to focus on my own thing. I know it sounds boring, but it's not my mistake.  It's just what happened. I might take a day off tomorrow just because I can," he said. "Yeah, I can. I'm sorry, I can.  I have to take them when I can.  I'm an old guy."

No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, who got a Court 1 assignment Friday, also caught a break.

He looked desperately flat and out of sorts against No. 28 seed Sam Querrey and found himself down two sets to none – the second set was 6-1 – when the rain came. Mercifully, for Djokovic, who won the first two majors and is trying to win Wimbledon to give himself a shot at the calendar Grand Slam at the US Open. In a sense, the way he was going, he even caught a break when Venus Williams' match went into extra innings, because had he gotten on court, say, an hour earlier, it might have been all over, the way it was going.

With rain interruptions on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, a lot of other adjustments have had to be made. First, the men's doubles draw, which usually plays a best-of-five set format, was shortened to best-of-three sets for the first round.

On Friday, that shortened format was applied to the second round as well. But the mixed, men's and women's doubles draws are a long way from even getting to the second round at this point.

The order of play for Saturday didn't come out until about 10:30 p.m. And that made it difficult for everyone who is playing, on a number of levels.

Bruno Soares, who is part of the No. 3 seeded team with Great Britain's Jamie Murray, wasn't pleased about it all. He and Murray are through to the second round; the problem is that they don't yet have an opponent. They weren't scheduled Friday and, as he found out late Friday night, won't play Saturday either.

He had his say on Twitter.


One player in the doubles draw also had some questions.



As well, one coach wrote that the tournament shut down the reservation hotline for transport just 45 minutes after the draw came out, meaning a lot of players and coaches couldn't get through to book transport for their Saturday matches.

These are most definitely first-world problems. But the entire tournament is in a bit of chaos at the moment. Wimbledon prides itself on its very lack of chaos, so the seams are showing a little bit.

On the plus side, fans who want to attend a "Peoples' Sunday" at Wimbledon won't have to queue up for tickets, as has been the case in previous years. All ticket sales will be online.

On the minus side, there's the ... forecast.

Saturday doesn't look too bad, but there's plenty more foul weather ahead, it seems. The overworked grounds crews are going to have to rest up for more heavy lifting in the second week.

Oh wait - they can't. No more middle Sunday.