The start of Wimbledon’s second week has long basked in its own, self-glorifying moniker. Borrowing the title of the Bangles’ 1986 hit single this always used to be Manic Monday, the day when all the fourth round men’s and women’s singles matches were completed. It was a whirlwind schedule in which drama could spring up at any point on any court spread across the All England Club. Not this year. This year Manic Monday is no more.
There is a sound reason behind the change. Feeling that too many important matches were played on outlying courts, unable to accommodate the numbers of spectators they deserved, the Wimbledon organisers decided to open up the Middle Sunday – traditionally a rest day, held in reserve in case of weather delays – and spread the last 16 matches across two days. A pleasant side-effect for those in charge was that the operation would earn more money in broadcasting rights by staging an extra day’s play.
Every decision, though, has unintended consequences. And the diminution of Manic Monday was evident everywhere. Drama was in short supply. Particularly on Number One Court, where spectators who had paid £130 a head were treated to a schedule that redefined the phrase underwhelming. Elena Rybakina against Petra Martic was followed by Jason Kubler against Taylor Fritz and then Amanda Anisimova against Harmony Tan, hardly contests requiring the occupation of the edge of the seat. Or indeed, judging by the long, empty rows in the stands, any occupation of any part of the seat.
“You would think Court One would have some more familiar faces and that matches people want to see would be more evenly spread out,” said one disgruntled ticket holder, who preferred to keep his complaint anonymous. “I feel like we’ve seen a lot less tennis than what we paid for.”
Not that his was a universally shared objection. On Court No 3, the queues of those with ground tickets (at £27) looking for the chance to grab an unreserved seat stretched round the block. Here was the opportunity to watch Brits Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Jamie Murray in doubles action.
“We got our tickets last Friday on the official website,” explained Alex, who had paid £90 for his seat. “It meant we had no idea who we were going to watch, but this has worked out really well.”
Part of the Wimbledon landscape is a scheduling lottery: when reserved seat tickets are bought nobody has a clue who they will get to see. For sure, much of the public enthusiasm has already been drained from this tournament by the elimination of Emma Raducanu, Andy Murray and Serena Williams and more particularly by the absence of Roger Federer.
But the dilution of the long-familiar Monday rush by playing the last 16 across two days has undoubtedly added further to the sense that this is not the greatest of Wimbledons. Certainly it is unlikely Susanna Hoffs and her bandmates would have been much inspired by what happened here at the opening of the second week of competition: Mundane Monday is hardly a chart topper.