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Wimbledon reminds us — quietly — how to schedule tennis tournaments

Matt Zemek

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Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

A lot of stories at Wimbledon made huge headlines in 2019. There are several stories I have not yet written about this tournament which will be published on Tuesday and throughout the week, as we process this highly impactful fortnight at SW19.

This next story did not hit the front pages. It did not roar through #TennisTwitter and upend the emotions or sensitivities of most tennis fans. When a story is quiet, it can be bad. It can be ignored. It can be neglected. A conspiracy of silence can enfold a given issue in ways which are damaging to the sport and embarrassing to journalists or journalistic outlets.

Yet, on other occasions, the reality of a quiet story can be good.

I used to officiate basketball (at the high school level). I learned very quickly when officiating a basketball game that a good game for a sports official is when no one else notices you. Coaches, players and fans notice when an official screws up. When a game ends and no one says anything, an official can know that he or she did really well. It is the classic embodiment of “no news is good news.”

So it was with Wimbledon scheduling this year.

Sure, there was a little bit of angst about Centre Court-versus-No. 1 Court assignments in the middle period of the tournament, but that will always exist. If there was a single problem with this past Wimbledon in terms of scheduling, it was that the mixed doubles final did not get to be played on Centre Court, with the women’s doubles being postponed from Saturday to Sunday because of the really long men’s doubles final on Saturday. Ultimately, among all the possible scheduling flaws or limitations which could exist, the mixed doubles being the top casualty rates as — all things considered — a highly successful tournament for organizers and schedulers.

Certainly, we can all acknowledge this much: Women’s singles players were not pushed to outside courts. Women’s singles players all had a full day off between quarterfinals and semifinals. Moreover, on a number of days at this tournament, a three-match Centre Court order of play had two women’s matches and one men’s match.

Everything which was wrong at Roland Garros — and, if we remember, Australia, with the women starting their semifinals in daytime heat (before the use of a roof entered midway through the Danielle Collins-Petra Kvitova semifinal) — was made right at Wimbledon.

Yes, the utter absence of rain helped a lot. It always does. When rain enters the picture, Wimbledon has been historically bad at making adjustments to a disordered schedule.

Yet, when rain never arrives during this fortnight, and the set schedule is allowed to play itself out, this is the best schedule in tennis. No tennis tournament has a better original (planned) schedule. Adjusted schedules are awful, but there was not a need for a severely adjusted schedule this year.

Wimbledon unfolded in peace and quiet, compared to the embarrassments which rightly greeted the French Tennis Federation.

This is the best schedule in tennis when nothing else — read: weather — happens.

Don’t forget this quiet story at the end of another Wimbledon.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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