Novak Djokovic wants Wimbledon to start Centre Court matches earlier

Novak Djokovic makes a backhanded return to Hubert Hurkacz during their Wimbledon match on Monday.
(Alberto Pezzali / Associated Press)
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Novak Djokovic is a bit tired of not getting on Centre Court at Wimbledon until nearly 9 p.m. The waiting. The uncertainty. The rushing to try to finish matches by the 11 p.m. local curfew — or the annoyance at having to stop midway through a contest and wait until the following day to resume.

He offered a solution Monday afternoon after winning his 32nd consecutive match in the grass-court tournament by wrapping up a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Hubert Hurkacz that began Sunday evening but was halted after two sets: Start play in the All England Club’s main stadium earlier than 1:30 p.m. Maybe at noon.

“It would make a difference,” said Djokovic, who is now into the quarterfinals and three wins away from what would be a fifth championship in a row at Wimbledon, an eighth overall at the place and a 24th career Grand Slam title.


“There are different ways that I’m sure they will address this issue,” said Djokovic, whose shoes are stamped with the number “23,” a reference to his current major trophy count, “and try to avoid having these kind of problems in the future.”

The head of the club made clear there is not much of a chance of such a switch.

“Matches are happening at a time when they’re accessible to people. We’re seeing [TV] viewing figures that are beyond our expectations and beyond previous years,” club chief executive Sally Bolton said, “so I think they probably speak for themselves.”

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time after turning back two match points against No. 14 Belinda Bencic on Sunday.

July 9, 2023

Play begins on the smaller courts at 11 a.m. and at No. 1 Court at 1 p.m., with Centre Court the last to get play underway. Since the tournament site is in a residential area, local rules prevent matches from continuing past 11 p.m.; often, if a set ends around 10:30 p.m., the encounter will be suspended until the next day so as not to risk going past the cutoff time.

That happened in Andy Murray’s loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round, which stretched into a second day after being the last on the schedule at Centre Court.

Djokovic’s third-round match, which also was last at that arena, appeared to be headed that way too, but he managed to finish beating Stan Wawrinka at 10:46 p.m. Djokovic-Hurkacz, again last for the day at Centre Court, began with the retractable roof shut; they stopped at 10:35 p.m. When action picked up again a little more than 16 hours later, the cover was gone and the wind was whipping.

Djokovic said he warmed up at about 1 p.m. for both of those nighttime affairs and then was left with a key decision.


“Should you go back to the accommodation? The house nearby? Or should you stay [at the club]? Yesterday, I decided to stay,” said Djokovic, who will face No. 7 Andrey Rublev on Tuesday for a berth in the semifinals. “I stayed, basically, for seven hours, waiting for my match to start.”

Once it did, Djokovic was not at his best against the 17th-seeded Hurkacz, who is best known for being the player to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2021 in what wound up being the last match of the 20-time major champion’s career. Hurkacz held three set points against Djokovic when he led the opening tiebreaker 6-3, but he showed some shakiness and couldn’t hold on. Then he led 5-4 in the second tiebreaker — two points from taking it — and again allowed Djokovic to come through before the interruption Sunday night.

One of Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinals will be No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, against unseeded Chris Eubanks, a 27-year-old American making his Wimbledon debut. Eubanks never had been past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament. The other men’s match Wednesday will be No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 6 Holger Rune. Alcaraz got past 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, and Rune also came back from a set down to beat No. 21 Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Women’s quarterfinal matchups established Monday were No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. No. 25 Madison Keys, and No. 3 Elena Rybakina vs. No. 6 Ons Jabeur.