Novak Djokovic got Hosed by Wimbledon

By: Sean Kent

Wimbledon, you done did Novak dirty.

During the fortnight here in London, the majority (three) of Djokovic’s five matches at Wimbledon were scheduled for Court 1 and only two were on Centre Court. He wound up playing his 4th round match against Adrian Mannarino on Centre but only after it had to be postponed to the following day due to the Rafael Nadal/Gilles Muller match taking so long. More on this injustice later.

This reason these assignments are especially significant at Wimbledon is because Centre Court has a retractable roof, meaning that the matches played there never get delayed or postponed due to England’s notoriously rainy summer (or actually all year round) weather. I don’t have the exact stats but I believe there’s only been two Wimbledon’s without a rain delay since the 1980's.

Meanwhile all of Roger Federer’s matches were played on Centre, as were Andy Murray’s. They were the only two men to benefit from knowing their matches would be played on the day and pretty much at the time they were scheduled.

Wimbledon will try to say they schedule matches based on live spectator demand. Since people love to watch Roger and Andy Murray is a British sporting hero, they simply must put them on Centre to accommodate the paying public. But this is BS for a couple of reasons.

First of all, with her win yesterday over Simona Halep, Johanna Konta is now the first British woman to make a Wimbledon semi-final since the 1960’s. Throughout the tournament there has been a huge demand for tickets to watch her live, and you could argue that yesterday’s match on Centre had the best, most raucous atmosphere of any match so far in the fortnight.

Yet Konta has a worse ratio than Novak, with four of her five matches having been scheduled so far on courts other than Centre. She wound up playing yesterday on Centre, but only because the weather made it necessary to move her match.

(On a side note, this strange fact can probably be attributed to Wimbledon’s continuing sexism, since they’ve only scheduled one woman’s match per day on each of the show courts , filling in the rest of the day with the men.

On Manic Monday for instance, the only woman deemed worthy of a marquee appearance on Centre was Venus Williams, playing against her Latvian upstart opponent Jelena Ostapenko.

Before you say I’m imagining sexism where it doesn’t exist, let me remind you that Wimbledon was the last Grand Slam to offer equal prize money, and that was only after a potential boycott was organized by Venus Williams.

All of this is basically a long way of saying that court assignments are influenced by gender and numerous other things besides spectator demand.)

The second reason Wimbledon’s logic is faulty is that this is supposed to be a tournament that is fair to all the players. But when Novak Djokovic’s Monday match couldn’t be played because it was getting dark out, they postponed it instead of moving it to Centre, which has floodlights for night playing. This means he was the only male player not to get a day off between his 4th round and quarterfinal matches. Meanwhile Federer and Mirray were able to play, rest, and plan accordingly without a single snag.

This lack of a say off wound up costing Novak dearly today when he had to retire in the 2nd set against Tomas Berdych. The Serb has been fighting an elbow injury since Indian Wells in March and he wasn’t given enough time to rest and rehab it in between grueling 3 out of 5 set matches.

Wimbledon had another typically lame excuse (that’s the kind of excuses they excel in) for why they couldn’t move Djokovic’s Monday match to Centre and play it out under the lights. They said that safety concerns for the spectators would have been to great.

Wait, what???????

This is a beyond bizarre explanation. For one, the audience at Wimbledon is mostly British. If there’s one thing the British know how to do it’s queue up and wait politely. They were never going to cause riot or a stampede. The Wimbledon crowd isn’t a bunch of soccer hooligans either, it’s people paying top shelf prices to sit quietly, watch the tennis and nibble strawberries and cream while sipping champagne.

This excuse also makes no sense because the very next day the tournament moved the Vandeweghe/Rybarikova match from Court 1 to Centre when they were unable to finish it outside due to rain. Did safety concerns not matter then? Or did they figure out they’d screwed Djokovic the day before and didn’t want to do it to another player?

Last, let’s not forget that court appointments should be fair to the spectators, sure. But first and foremost they should be fair to the players. So were they done with this in mind so far in 2017? Did Wimbledon put the safety of the players first along with respecting their desire and need for a level playing field in order to compete to the best of their abilities?

I don’t think you can say that’s the case. And today when Djokovic was forced to pull the plug on his Wimbledon title hopes and his quest to regain the number 1 ranking, I’m pretty sure I know how he felt too.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SeanKent and @tennisnerdpod.