Wimbledon Show Court Start Times – Why They Must Be Changed

Grand Slam tournaments around the world always face a bit of backlash over how they are arranged and organized. Yet of all the areas that provide a bit of friction between the fans, players, tournament organizers, it’s the start and finish times that have caused the most controversy in recent times. We’ve seen this with other Grand Slam events throughout the year too – not just with Wimbledon 2023. 

Take the French Open as an example. Fans and players have been complaining to the tournament organizers regarding the night matches and finishing times for a couple of years now. For the players, if they are playing in Paris beyond 11 PM or even midnight, the conditions are far from ideal. And for the fans, if play goes on too late, they are sitting in the cold and can’t utilize public transport to get to their dwellings when the games finish. 

Wimbledon Show Court Start Times

There are also problems with the Australian Open, as there are absolutely no restrictions on how late matches can finish there. Anyway, I say this to highlight the fact that Wimbledon is not the only tournament that faces problems in the organization department. But the thing about problems is that they can always be resolved, and the start times concerning both Centre Court and Court 1 have been a major topic in terms of finding possible solutions for the future.

Therefore, I wanted to weigh in on this debate and share my two cents concerning why the start time on Wimbledon’s show courts simply must be changed going forward. 

Wimbledon Start Time on Main Courts and Why It Must Be Adapted for Long-Term Tournament Success

If you have tracked the Wimbledon schedule over the last fortnight, you will know that play has always started a little later on the show courts. While play has commenced around the grounds at 11 AM, it hasn’t started until 13:00 for Court 1. And for Centre Court, it’s been even later, with most days subject to a start time of 13:30. With this said, due to numerous issues this year, the start time on these show courts has been brought into the spotlight more than ever.

On that note, I will touch upon these respective issues and what kind of impacts these have had during the 2023 Championships. Furthermore, I’ve outlined the benefits of changing the start times and what results this would have in future tournaments.

The Dreaded 11 PM Curfew

Ever since 2009, Wimbledon has been subject to an 11 PM curfew. This curfew was enforced because, at the time, Centre Court then started to host matches late into the evening thanks to the retractable roof. Additionally, because of the lights, noise, and sheer volume of people that would then be making their way through Wimbledon late in the evening, there was a clear intention for keeping local residents happy by introducing this curfew.

But as we have seen several times in the 2023 Championships, this 11 PM curfew has resulted in a number of matches failing to finish on the day they had started. Of course, if play had started in line with the rest of the courts around Wimbledon, this could have easily been avoided. 

The Pressure on Show Courts Following Schedule Delays

The second reason that the start times must be changed comes down to delays that can occur throughout the tournament. Specifically, for the 2023 Championships, it would be fair to say that it has been a bit of a wet event. And since only Centre Court and Court 1 have a retractable roof, this meant that these were the only two courts that could host matches at the time. This placed enormous pressure on the tournament organizers to try and stay on track.

Additionally, since the show courts have only started at 13:00 and 13:30, respectively, this gives a very small window for extra matches to be funneled onto show courts in the event of rain.

The ‘Value for Money’ Problem in the Eyes of Fans

The third and final issue doesn’t necessarily relate to the schedule. Instead, it relates to a growing opinion of the general public that show court tickets don’t provide quite the same value that they used to. Sure, Wimbledon show courts will always host the top players, as well as the most important matches later in the tournament. But at a starting price of £100, some fans believe that purchasing such a ticket to watch just three matches just isn’t worth it.

As for the obvious solution, if Wimbledon organizers pushed the start times back to 12:00 or even 11:30, they could definitely schedule four matches for each court. This would remove the ‘value for money’ issue almost immediately, and I feel it would lead to a better visitor experience overall.

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