Wimbledon is to become a 14-day event from 2022 with the previously sacrosanct Middle Sunday added to the schedule from next year.
Play has only taken place on Middle Sunday four times in the event’s history: 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016 as a knock-on effect of bad weather in the opening week of the tournament.
But to tie in with the centenary year of the Centre Court next year and then annually, play will take place on that first Sunday of the championships with the traditional Manic Monday scrapped and the fourth-round matches expected to be played over Sunday and Monday.
Previously, the Sunday had been kept free on the schedule to allow the grasscourts sufficient time to recover. But All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said: “Thanks to improved grasscourt 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.”
Wimbledon bosses also confirmed they expected to have a minimum 25% of their capacity crowds for this year’s tournament, a figure they said they could build on depending on future Government guidance. The tournament begins on June 28, a week after what has been billed Freedom Day and an earliest-case cessation of social-distancing guidelines.
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There will be no traditional Wimbledon queue and all tickets will be sold online, with an initiative in place to provide tickets for frontline workers.
It is unclear, though, at this stage whether ticket holders will be forced to wear masks although Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton dispelled previous reports that Henman Hill would be closed off this year. She said: “We do believe that we would be able to come up with a solution to socially distance the Hill.”
Prize money has not yet been announced for the tournament with Wimbledon officials saying that they were “not able to fully understand what the financial performance of the Championships will be”. That is expected to be revealed in June.
Wimbledon’s finances have been aided by the pandemic insurance they had in place for last year’s cancelled tournament. They have received a £180million insurance payout of which £36m has been allocated to national tennis governing body the LTA. But the pandemic insurance does not cover the 2021 tournament.
Of other changes for the 2021 tournament, electronic player challenges will be added to courts four to 11 for the first time while a shot/serve clock introduced at both qualifying and the championships for the first time.
In addition, Wimbledon revealed plans for the wider Wimbledon Park expansion, with a latest date for qualifying to be brought onto site from its current Roehampton base in 2028.
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