x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Night matches at Wimbledon possible

The success of the night match brings a flood of questions to Wimbledon chief executive Ian Ritchie on future use of the roof.

LONDON // Referee Andrew Jarrett's decision to send the £80 million (Dh477m) roof rolling into place at Centre Court on the evening of the second Monday at least gave the new structure a dry run during what was a dry Wimbledon Championships 2009. And what a spectacular experiment it proved to be. British hope Andy Murray was the unwilling guinea pig as he struggled to adjust to the heavier indoor conditions when it was warm and arid outside.

But he was grateful that the floodlights, attached to the roof, enabled him to complete a marathon fourth round win over Stanislas Wawrinka when in previous years he would have had to resume battle the following afternoon. Although Murray struggled with his timing, he had no complaints over his footing. Fears that heavy dew, which prevents play from taking place under outdoor floodlights on grass, would turn the court into a skating rink proved unfounded as the hi-tech "air management" system passed its high profile examination with flying colours.

The success of the night exercise brought a flood of questions to Wimbledon chief executive Ian Ritchie on future use of the roof. He insisted he is running an outdoor daytime tournament, and that is the way it will stay. But not everybody believes Ritchie. What will happen, for instance, when there is a backlog of 100 matches as there was when Goran Ivanisevic won the men's singles on the third Monday in 2001?

If there is a need to make up for lost time, the order of play committee would be ridiculed if they scheduled a traditional Centre Court programme of three singles matches starting at lunchtime. What is to stop them having a match at dawn which would provide Australian television viewers with a midnight feast watching somebody like Lleyton Hewitt launch one of his comebacks? Or asking Andy Roddick to keep his serve under wraps until, as they say in the programme, "not before 11pm" when his fellow Americans are arriving home for dinner in front of the TV set?

The mind boggles. But Wimbledon is on the verge of exploring uncharted territory. Tennis fans who have made a habit of sleeping on the streets of SW19 may have restless nights, hoping their tents are not overrun by ticket holders either arriving or departing at unsocial hours. wjohnson@thenational.ae