A year on and Wimbledon will happen but with several changes and with elements of uncertainty while a look to the future will see the redevelopment of the tennis club across the road and the middle Sunday rest day will be no more.
At the annual spring media conference, the club Chairman Ian Hewitt and the CEO Sally Bolton outlined what will transpire between 28 June and 11 July, but also revealed the shape of what is to come for the sport’s most historically significant and traditional event.
“I would like to say how excited we are that Wimbledon will be back this summer, with the best tennis players in the world competing on our grass courts, in front of our passionate spectators,” Hewitt said. “While it will, necessarily, be different from Wimbledon as we know it, we are full of enthusiasm and totally committed to our return following last year’s cancellation.”
The following points were announced for this year’s Wimbledon:
1. Spectator levels will be capped at 25% at this point. With the UK beginning to open up, there is a hope that this number will increase closer the time. The Club is delaying the opening for ticket sales till sometime in June. It will be cutting things very fine.
“We very much hope 25% is a minimum position from which we can build - it is our absolute desire to enable as many people as possible to safely attend The Championships this year,” Bolton said. “At the heart of our thinking is the intention to create the mix of spectators for which Wimbledon is known, while also working hard to protect the financial performance of The Championships.”
2. Prize money levels was not announced because the committee cannot determine at this point what will be available for player distribution. The indication however is that the amount of prize money will be reduced from what it was in 2019.
The Chairman was not able to indicate if the AELTC would be taking a leaf out of the Australian Open’s book with relation to prize money. In Melbourne, the level was slightly reduced but the round-by-round distribution was weighted more in favour of the first few rounds rather than the finals as is normally the case.
3. All events will be played except the invitation events.
4. One of the wonderful aspects of the Wimbledon Championships is that players rent houses in the area and wander freely through Wimbledon Village or Wimbledon Town Centre. They do not have to battle London city traffic and have easy access to the tournament site and practice courts, etc but this year that will not happen. They will be in a designated hotel bubble in Westminster near the London Eye.
If any player or a member of their group breach the risk environment and the rules, they could be fined up to $US20,000, have their credential withdrawn and be defaulted.
5. Players need to accept the various rules and regulations before committing to play and they will be limited to three guests in their group. Each player will be provided with two hotel rooms and if they have additional needs, they just need to contact the AELTC.
Looking to the future and Hewitt announced that once public consultation processes are complete the club which the AELTC bought for a reputed 80million pounds, directly across Church Road, will be developed with 39 courts allowing for the expansion of the property. Significantly the qualifying event which up to now has been played at the Bank of England courts in nearby Roehampton, will be played at this new facility from 2028.
Additionally, the middle Sunday decision created the most chatter. Traditionally that day has been a rest day but from 2022 it will become a permanent play day. Before it was used on the rare occasion if rain in the first week placed the schedule far behind and the day was needed to catch up. With this move, Wimbledon will become a 14-day tournament but for many the second Monday, regarded as the “greatest day in the tennis calendar” when all round of 16 matches is played, will sadly be split up.
“Thanks to improved grass court technology and maintenance over the past five years or so and other measures, we are comfortable that we are able to look after the courts, most particularly Centre Court, without a full day of rest,” Hewitt said.
“This provides us with the opportunity, at an important time, to enhance the accessibility, reach and fanbase of Wimbledon, and tennis. It will also ensure greater resilience and fairness of the tournament programme for our competitors and enable us to create a different kind of atmosphere on the Middle Sunday. To be able to launch this new tradition at the same time as celebrating the history of Centre Court in 2022 is something we look forward to immensely.”