Novak Djokovic is set to be denied his wish for next year’s Wimbledon after Carlos Alcaraz prevented the Serb from clinching an eighth triumph at the Championships and what would have been his fifth in a row. Alcaraz won 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in a classic and dramatic four-hour and 42-minute final on the most famous grass court in the world.
Djokovic had been looking to join Roger Federer on eight titles at the All England Club but will have to wait an extra 12 months to do so. The 23-time Grand Slam winner was left frustrated as he faced boos from the crowd for a time violation when he took too long to serve and a code violation for obliterating his racket against the net post. And there were tears post-match in his on-court interview as he spoke to his son Stefan, aged eight, up in his box, saying: “I love you, thank you for supporting me.”
And on top of the disappointment of being denied the title, when he returns in 2024, Djokovic is unlikely to get the earlier starts to the day on Centre Court that he has publicly called for. The Daily Mail reported last week that Wimbledon are concerned they would need to pay out millions to broadcasters, such as the BBC, to bring the 1.30pm start time forward.
Play on the No 1 Court – the only other arena with a retractable roof – currently begins at 1pm with action on the outside courts getting underway from 11am. But unlike the other Grand Slams, play at Wimbledon concludes at 11pm on the show courts despite the roof and LED lights. Andy Murray and Djokovic were both inflicted by the curfew time this year with Djokovic’s fourth-round match against Hubert Hurkacz starting on Sunday night and finishing on Monday afternoon.
The Beeb and other broadcasters like the later starts because they get more matches at prime times. While it also suits the highly sought-after debenture ticket holders who have more time to eat their lunches in the hospitality suites before making their way to Centre or No 1 for the opening matches.
But Djokovic said: “Obviously curfew is probably something that is much more difficult to change, I understand, because of the community and the residential area we are in. I think the matches could be pushed at least to start at 12pm. I think it would make a difference.”
Despite his pleas, the Mail say Wimbledon will resist the calls to bring forward the times in fear of having to pay multi-million rebates. TV contracts would require renegotiations if the matches on Centre started from midday. The 11pm curfew is also here to stay as the Club look to avoid alienating their local residents, whose approval they sorely need for a huge 38-court expansion of the grounds at Wimbledon Park.
An All England Club statement on the match timings read: “We have traditionally begun play early in the afternoon on Centre and No 1 Courts with the aim of having those courts as full as possible for when the players walk on court. This is a key point of difference at Wimbledon compared to other tournaments.
“We know that a ‘day out at Wimbledon’ is the whole experience, an opportunity to walk around the grounds and view some tennis on the outside courts, indulge in a picnic or some strawberries and cream, and then settle in to enjoy the scheduled matches on Centre and No 1 Courts.
“There are many operational considerations which need to be taken into account when preparing the grounds and courts for play and all of this will be considered as part of our post-Championships review, as it is every year.”