Middle Sunday …                                                          A Tradition with Secrets

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By Jane Voigt

June 29, 2014 — Play resumes at The Championships tomorrow. Some call it the best day in tennis. All players in the round of 16 take to the lawns, hoping to ascend to the quarterfinals. 

However, yesterday's rain put a chink in the fantastic expectation that is Monday at The All England Club. 

Madison Keys and Yaroslava Shvedova will walk on Court 12 a bit before noon Monday to complete a match that ended way too late (9:36 BST). Keys was in tears.  

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Madison Keys is psyched after defeating Jie Zheng of China at the Australian Open this January. Photo credit tennisclix.com

As darkness edged closer, Keys broke Shvedova to 6-5 in the second set. However, she also injured her right hamstring, as well, and took a medical time. She implored the chair umpire to continue. If she could win her serve, the match would be tied 2-sets all. She limped to the baseline, cried and persevered but did nothing more than let Shvedova tie the set, 6-6.

These women play a tiebreak, first thing Monday. Players don’t like tiebreaks, after a close set. They are risky. So to begin their match with a tiebreak will challenge the nature of their abilities to thoroughly warmup, immediately concentrate, and serve big. 

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Yaroslava Shvedova (left) takes time to talk with Jane Voigt of DownTheTee.com during Family Circle Cup, Daniel Island, April 2014. 

Ana Ivanovic (No. 11) and the 2013 Finalist Sabine Lisicki did not finish yesterday either. They were waved inside with Lisicki up a set. Kei Nishikori (No. 10) and Lucky Loser Simone Bolelli had split four nail-biting sets and were knotted 3-all in the fifth when relieved of guessing the path of tennis balls rocketing toward them.

The fact that Ivanovic and Lisicki were inside at least 20 minutes before Keys and Shvedova defies logic, though. Does darkness favor one end of the Grounds? Not really. Here are the facts. No matter the agonizing pleas players make to chair umpires, for anything including the conclusion of a match when darkness looms, the tournament referee is the only person with that kind of authority. This man is Brian Earley. 

Other matches were totally scratched — Stan Wawrinka/Denis Istomin and John Isner/Feliciano Lopez. They have to play tomorrow; and, the winners will then have to come back Tuesday and Wednesday to catch up with the tournament’s schedule. 

With England known for its soggy weather you would think Wimbledon would allow an abbreviated Sunday schedule, especially today. However it has only done so in 1991, 1997 and 2004. 

Middle Sunday was built into the Championships for players and all tournament personnel to relax plus uphold traditions practiced by residents of The Village of Wimbledon. On this day they go to church. They also escape, if only for a day, the disruptions the fortnight and all its invading personalities has caused them this year and for every year since 1877. 

“‘We do realize that they do suffer a great deal during the fortnight,’” Christopher Gorringe, Wimbledon’s chief executive, told The New York Times in 1991, the first instance when horrible weather forced play on middle Sunday. “‘And, that’s the only time that some of them can get out of their drives and have visitors in.’” 

The Merton Town council, a group comprised of Wimbledon locals, is the authority that originally granted The Championships the right to play on middle Sunday in rare emergencies. This Council rides roughshod over the tournament, not the other way around. Tournament officials want players to play. Town officials don’t. Thus, tournament officials play a game of appeasement with villagers so the gates of The All England Club open for the biggest tennis event of the year.  

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013