Spectators believe the cost-of-living crisis, coronavirus and unsettled weather are to blame for a lower-than-expected turnout at Wimbledon this year.
Total attendance at the Championships as it returned at full capacity for the first time in three years is down 11% so far on the last comparable year, analysis shows.
Some 114,573 fans poured into SW19 over the first three days of matches, with 36,603 on Monday, 39,450 on Tuesday and 38,520 on Wednesday.
This is more than 14,000 below the equivalent figure of 128,934 in 2019, which was the last time the south-west London grand slam was open to full crowds.
Heavy rain will slowly clear Northern Ireland this morning. Heavy and thundery showers are also affecting northwest Wales ☔
Elsewhere there will be a mix of sunshine and showers, these locally heavy at times with a risk of thunder 🌦️
— Met Office (@metoffice) June 30, 2022
Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and returned in 2021 but with reduced capacity.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club organisers had expected 42,000 tickets to be sold daily this year.
David Wyatt, 68, and his son Mark Wyatt, 32, from Wanstead in south-east London, gained access to the grounds after joining the queue for premium-on-the-day tickets.
The duo said this was their second time at Wimbledon and in previous years they had to contest with an 8,000-strong crowd compared with a few hundred this year.
Mark Wyatt, a fitness manager, said people were still cautious about returning to his gym due to coronavirus and he believed the same worries were affecting the Wimbledon turnout.
He told the PA news agency: “Wimbledon was reaching its peak in 2019 after ‘Murray mania’ and people really getting into tennis, and I think it’s taken a hit with numbers this year, and the weather not being quite as hot as it has been is maybe a reason.
“It’s definitely not as busy as it was previously. I think Covid would put some people off for sure.
“You’ve had people not going to sporting events, getting out of (the) habit, isolating a lot, not necessarily having social contact.”
Wednesday saw Sir Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu endure defeats and Centre Court supporters said the day of disappointment could drive attendance figures down further.
After watching Murray’s match, Richard Evans, 32, from Peckham, south-east London, told PA that major British losses meant Wimbledon officials will “struggle to get people here” in the coming days.
Alex Woods, 34, a consultant for an advertising firm in Bristol, said he believed the cost-of-living crisis and airport chaos was also impacting ticket sales.
“There’s obviously a few things going on at the moment which probably prohibits people coming to things like this – it’s an expensive day-out,” he told PA.
“You’ve seen at Lord’s as well, the cricket’s not been selling out, and that’s normally guaranteed.
“Also, it’s harder to move around, getting into this country is probably putting a few international tourists coming to Wimbledon off.”
The Met Office has also warned of more rainy weather on the way, with “cloud bubbling up with isolated heavy showers developing” over the south-west London venue on Thursday afternoon.
Play was delayed on several occasions due to downpours over the first three days and Britain’s number one Cameron Norrie said the postponements put him “on edge”.
Norrie is the only one of the seven British singles players not competing on Thursday, instead scheduled to make his return to the hallowed grass courts on Friday.
Katie Boulter, Jack Draper, Harriet Dart, Liam Broady, Heather Watson and Alastair Gray were playing in singles games for team GB.