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Novak Djokovic says Wimbledon 2023 matches begin too late and suggests Centre Court midday start time

Djokovic also criticised the decision to allow players to practice on Centre Court ahead of the championships

WIMBLEDON — Novak Djokovic believes matches should start earlier on Centre Court after his fourth-round win over Hubert Hurkacz ran over two days.

“I agree with that,” the seven-time Wimbledon winner said when asked if organisers should reconsider the 1.30pm start time on Centre Court.

“Obviously curfew is probably something that is much more difficult to change, I understand, because of the community and the residential area we are in.

“I think the matches could be pushed at least to start at 12. It would make a difference.”

Djokovic and Hurkacz started their match at 8.49pm on Sunday night, but the 11pm curfew meant play was suspended after two sets at 10.35pm – the Serbian leading 2-0 before the resumption on Monday.

He then dropped the next set but battled back to reach his 56th grand slam quarter-final, advancing 7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.

And while Wimbledon have defended the scheduling, chief executive Sally Bolton pointing towards bumper TV numbers, Djokovic explained his frustrations from a player’s perspective, having been made to wait throughout Sunday after both matches prior went the distance on Centre Court.

“Once the time is over 8pm, you know that there’s a high probability you won’t finish your match,” he added. “That was the case against [Stan] Wawrinka and Hurkacz. Both of the matches started almost at 9pm.

“I warmed up for both of those matches around 1pm, something like this. Should you go back to the accommodation? The house nearby? Or should you stay? Yesterday [Sunday] I decided to stay. I stayed basically for seven hours waiting for my match to start.

“That’s a lot. You never know what’s going to happen. Today I’m thinking, I have at least an hour and a half. Then after 20 minutes, my match is called because there was a retirement in the ladies’ match before us.

“It’s tennis. That’s the unpredictability of tennis in a way. You have to be ready for both scenarios. When I saw the matches that were played before me yesterday, I thought those matches could be long matches. But you don’t know that. You can only predict. It’s never a guarantee.

“It’s tricky, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. You have to adapt. It’s not the first, probably neither the last, time that I get to experience these type of particular circumstances.”

Djokovic also criticised Wimbledon’s decision to let the top players train on Centre Court ahead of the tournament.

He added: “Wimbledon has been so attached, I would say connected, with its tradition and history in not changing certain things, which I respect a lot. I think they’re wonderful things to keep with history, like the defending champion going out on the first day.

“Even though it was nice for us to get a chance in the last couple of years to practice on the Centre Court before the tournament starts, I have to say I’m not a fan of that. I would rather have no practice at all on the Centre Court before the tournament starts.

“That would help the court. It is the most sensitive surface we have in the sport. So you can feel the grass wearing out even after a few practice sessions already, getting the beating from the sliding and running and so forth.

“There are different ways that I’m sure they will address this issue and try to avoid having these kind of problems in the future.”

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