Wimbledon 97: Sunday play a happy option for everyone except police

What does a Slazenger Wimbledon high visibility ball (between 6.35 and 6.67 centimetres in diameter, weighing between 56.7 and 58.5 grams and stored at between 21C and 22C) do in the rain?


The wet weather has had such a worrying effect on the tournament that playing on Sunday is not so much the issue as which Sunday?

After the second worst start in the history of the championships - only 1991 has been worse, so far - and not much respite in the conditions in prospect, Alan Mills, the referee, wonders when the tournament will end.

"As far as we can see into it, it's five days of not too hopeful weather," Mills said last night, after the first complete washout of a day's play since 1992. "There are sort of spells and windows amongst it, but there isn't one day when it says we're going to have a fine, clear, warm, sunny day, even in the middle of flaming June.''

The wettest June, in fact, since 1987.

"Playing on Sunday is obviously an option we are seriously considering at the moment," Mills confirmed, "but it is not just in the Club's hands as to whether we can do it. We've got to get permission from the council and the police before we can even contemplate doing it.''

The police do not appear keen on a repetition of People's Sunday '91. Inspector Philip Coates, who is in charge of security, said: "The Club have previously said they wouldn't want to play on the middle Sunday. When it happened in 1991, it caused so many problems the general view was we didn't want to do it again.''

Mills, while acknowledging logistical difficulties, has fond memories of a unique occasion. "I personally thought the middle Sunday in '91 was probably the most inspiring day that I have spent at Wimbledon," he said. "The people and the atmosphere was just electric, and I thought it was an absolutely great success.''

He added, "But also, weatherwise, we did have a forecast for the Sunday in 1991 that said it was going to be a good day. It would be, let us say, a bit silly of us if we, knowing the weather forecast, open up everything and we spend a day like today. So that's another consideration that has to be taken into account.''

So what next? "We keep soldiering on and playing as many matches as we can," Mills said. "We have a certain number of rest days built into the second week from the singles players' point of view. The longer it goes on like this, the more chance they keep losing their rest days and they will have to play matches back-to-back.

"We've already cut the doubles down to three sets. We have still got 28 ladies who haven't finished their first round singles. We've got six men who are unfinished in their first round singles. So we've got 34 matches that are an absolute priority to play.''

Might the situation call for reducing the men's singles to the best of three sets? "It hasn't been done, as far as I can remember, but again that's another option.''

And would there be a time limit if the championships go into the third week? "I think Tuesday would probably be a deadline, because players have other commitments.

Having invested some pounds 100m in a new No 1 Court complex, had the Club made a mistake in not having a retractable roof.?

Tim Phillips, chairman of Wimbledon's order of play sub-committee, said: "This is an old chestnut."

So will there never be a roof? "I don't think anybody would say `never', but we have considered it from every single angle, not least from the players' angle, and the view of the moment is where we are.

"On the question of rain, in terms of putting a giant umbrella over the championships, it would be lovely to do it. We haven't found the practical solution that answers all the issues. One of the main considerations is the fact that this is an outdoor tournament. It's a grass court tournament, and what about the players who don't play on a covered court?''

So why not floodlights and night play? "Because then the grass gets dewy and slippery."

Mills added, "This is another answer to the lights question. The BBC did a trial, and all the moths arrive on the court.''

How about taking up the grass, then?

Mills interjected, "I don't think that needs an answer."

Meantime, as a sage once said, they wait who ought to stand and serve. And so too do the sodden spectators.

Jeremy Clarkson
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own