Wimbledon adjusts start time and appoints new referee

Hannah Wilks in Wimbledon 9 Nov 2018
  • Wimbledon announces new start time for play on outside courts
  • Play will now start at 11am in a bid to curb overrunning matches
  • New referee and changes to qualifying draws also announced
Centre Court ahead of the 2018 men's singles final at Wimbledon (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Play at Wimbledon will start earlier from 2019.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) have announced a raft of changes - or as they would have it, 'operational enhancements' - ahead of The Championships 2019, including a new referee, changes to the time at which play starts and alterations to the qualifying draw. 

The biggest news is that the start of play on the outside courts has been moved forward by half an hour.

Play traditionally begins at 11.30am BST on all courts except the two biggest show courts, Centre and No. 1 Court, on which play begins at 1pm (2pm on the final two days of the tournament). 

But from 2019, play will begin at 11am on the outside courts. 

The statement from the AELTC said that the start of play was being moved forwards 'in order to allow for greater certainty over completion of the order of play'.

Unlike all the other Grand Slams, the outside courts at Wimbledon have no provision for play to continue after night falls. Centre and No. 1 Courts allow for the continuation of play past nightfall due to their retractable roofs, but there is an 11pm curfew for the curtailment of play due to an agreement with local residents.

This has often led to matches not being completed on their scheduled day and spilling over to the following day, which affects the rest of the schedule as well as giving players uneven amounts of rest between rounds. 

In 2018, Wimbledon saw the two longest men's semifinals in its history, with Kevin Anderson and John Isner playing for six hours and 36 minutes. Once their match finished at 26-24 in the fifth set in Anderson's favour, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were unable to complete their semifinal - which also went five sets and had to be completed on the following day, delaying the start of the women's final and denying Djokovic a rest day between rounds (although he won the title anyway). 

Adjusting the start time is the second measure that Wimbledon has taken recently to try to address the issue of overrunning matches and schedule congestion. The AELTC announced a few weeks ago that the tournament would introduce a deciding set tie-break if the score reached 12-12.

During pre-tournament press for next week's Nitto ATP Finals, Isner - who has played two of the longest matches in Wimbledon history - praised the new rule.

Wimbledon also announced a key personnel change to take place in 2020, with Championships Referee Designate Andrew Jarrett to be replaced by Gerry Armstrong.

Jarrett has been the chief official at Wimbledon since 2006, while Armstrong, a former chair umpire, has been Assistant Referee at Wimbledon since 2007. His three-year term begins in 2020.

The other significant 'operational enhancements' for The Championships 2019 are, firstly, the addition of Quad Wheelchair Singles and Doubles events, joining men's and women's Wheelchair Singles and Doubles; and secondly, the expansion of the women's qualifying draw to 128 players, the same size as the men. 

AELTC Chief Executive Richard Lewis said:

'We are delighted to be introducing Quad Wheelchair Singles and Doubles events, providing the Quad Wheelchair competitors with the opportunity to compete at Wimbledon.

'We are also pleased to be confirming two significant operational decisions in staging two 128 singles draws for the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Qualifying, and in moving the start of play time forwards by half an hour.'

Wimbledon 2019 will take place from 1-14 July, with Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber returning to defend their singles titles.

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Wimbledon adjusts start time and appoints new referee

Play at the outside courts at the All England Club will begin at 11am, not 11.30am, from the 2019 Championships onwards as Wimbledon attempts to curb overrunning matches

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