Middle Sunday not so sacred at Wimbledon this year

By The Rex Factor

The world’s oldest, most prestigious and popular tennis tournament in the world traditionally enjoys a day of rest roughly halfway through the tournament.

Mother Nature intervened this year.

The men’s and women’s singles draws start with 128 players on the last Monday in June every year at the All England Club in London, England every year. The event has been held since 1877, yet there has only been play on the middle Sunday three times in history before this year’s events.

Persistent rain created a glut of rescheduled matches and the schedule had only plodded along through Saturday, with four men’s matches needing to be completed from Saturday and nine more matches to be contested Sunday to finalize the round of 16 in both draws.

The not-so-creatively named “Middle Sunday” came as a deal with local residents around the venue: The men’s final was played on a Saturday for many years but when organizers wanted to move it, the quiet and residential area around the Wimbledon grounds said there must be a day of rest. Thus, a deal was struck and “Middle Sunday” has been in place – violated only in 1991, 1997 and 2004 in addition to this year for the same reason (rain).

It created a special atmosphere for the fans, many of whom are unable to attend or get their hands on tickets to the traditional dates. About 22,000 fans went on sale Saturday afternoon online, and more than 111,000 fans queued up TicketMaster for the ticket, which promptly sold out in 27 minutes.

Americans have struggled in men’s tennis for the better part of a decade, though Sam Querrey pulled the shock of this – and maybe any other – tournament when he beat men’s top seed Novak Djokovic on Saturday in four sets. Djokovic was working on a 30-match winning streak in majors and is the current holder of all four major titles. His last Grand Slam loss was in the 2015 French Open final.

Querrey is joined in the round of 16 by fellow American Steve Johnson, who will face seven-time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer. Johnson joins Jiri Vesely as the other of the two unseeded players left in the men’s draw.

The other American hopeful was John Isner, but in a match that started Saturday, Isner blew a two-set lead and lost the last set 19-17, the third-longest fifth set in Wimbledon history. Isner has played in two of the three longest matches in tournament history. The first-round match against Nicolas Mahut in 2010 was the longest match in tennis history, and Isner prevailed, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. It’s a small world; Querrey draws Mahut in the round of 16 Monday.

American women are far more prominent in the event, as has been the case for as long as top-ranked Serena Williams has been playing. She was one of four Americans in action Sunday, beating Annika Beck 6-3, 6-0. Serena next draws 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Coco Vandeweghe (as a 7-to-2 favorite) beat sixth-seed Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-4. The 27th seed will face 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Other Americans in competition on Monday include ninth-seed Madison Keys, who advanced Saturday and will battle fifth-seed Simona Halep. Eighth-seed Venus Williams will face 12th seeded Carla Suarez Navarro.

There were a couple of American casualties on Middle Sunday, as 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova won the third set 8-6 over 18th seed Sloane Stephens. Elena Vesnina also eliminated Julia Boserup 7-5, 7-5.

Middle Sunday sets up an exciting Monday, as all round of 16 matches in both the men and women’s draw are scheduled – unless, of course, rain intervenes.

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