Traditionally, and since forever, the first Sunday of Wimbledon, better known as the Middle Sunday, is not a competition day. The tournament goes on a break. The club is « closed ». Not completely. It is closed to the crowds. Only people with accreditations are allowed on site, which in no way means that everyone goes. Many take advantage to do laundry, food shopping, and perhaps squeeze in a little nap.
Players, of course, go to the site in order to practice. They love the atmosphere as they are able to stroll around the grounds with no escort, no selfies, no autographs. For example, this video could not have been shot on a regular day.
So why does this tradition exist?
Originally, the reason behind the Sunday break was due to religion. One does not play tennis on the day of you know who. In fact, until 1981, the men’s singles final was played on the last Saturday, and the women’s on the Friday. Then, I guess, the oldies from the club, that enforced this rule, « moved on » and their remplacements must have said said « enough of this joke ». One has to be logical, and it is ludicrous to not take advantage of a full day of ticketing.
Despite this first revolution, the Middle Sunday was maintained. Not so that the players could go pray, but in order to give the grass a breather. Some think that there was also a gentlemen’s agreement between the club and the locals, that a day off would be given in order to take a break from the frenzy. You know those poor locals who rent their houses (granted not this year) at totally unkosher prices.
The club maintains that the main reason is to give the grass and the players a breather. This does not make much sense since Middle Sunday is followed by Manic Monday. All round of 16 matches are played on the second Monday of the tournament. It is a way to reset the tournament. All the guys then play their quarter finals on Wednesday, while the women play on Tuesday. So from giving a breather to the players, the women end up playing two consecutive days.
I think that the real answer to the question : why maintain the Middle Sunday all these years, is simply because they can/could. It was a way (one more) for Wimbledon to put a passive aggressive message to the the rest of tennis world and let them know how much better and stronger they are.
As of 2022, Wimbledon, like the other Slams, will have play on every day.
Since the tournament exists, the Middle Sunday was only played four times (1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016). Those years, the tournament had been delayed so much in the first week due to terrible weather conditions, that giving up a full day was madness and would most possible result in ending the event on the Monday or even Tuesday.
All of that is now over. As of 2022, Wimbledon, like the other Slams, will have play on every day. One of course imagines that this is for financial reasons, but rest assure, they will never admit to that. In fact, talking points are already those of making it fair in terms of rest for everyone during the full two weeks.
However, as it was the case when there had been play during the Middle Sunday, ticketing could be done in a different way. The first come first serve system put in place in the past, changing the Middle Sunday to People’s Sunday might be maintained. This promises for a lighter atmosphere slightly more « popular ». An atmosphere that the players particularly enjoyed as Nick Kyrgios tells it : "I played on the Middle Sunday once," Kyrgios said. "I had to finish my match against Feliciano Lopez. That was awesome. That was actually incredible. That was a very special match for me, one of my best matches I've played here. It was cool."
Yes it was cool Nick, and it will now be every year.