WIMBLEDON CROWDS PLUMMET TO THEIR LOWEST IN 26 YEARS

Not only has the relentless rain halted much of the play at Wimbledon over the last week, it also appears to have kept the usual flock of crowds away.

The All England Club was deluged in almost a month's worth of rainfall in the first week of the Championships alone.

And the gloomy skies and torrential downpours seems to have brought with them a dip in the attendance figures.

Numbers on Friday - the wettest day of the Grand Slam so far - were the lowest seen on day five of the event in more than 25 years.

There have also been suggestions a lack of star power might be to blame, with the titans of the game over recent decades, such as Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams, having handed over the baton to the next generation.

The Club's chief executive Sally Bolton, however, blamed the turnout on the bad weather which also left officials facing the difficult task of re-scheduling more than 80 cancelled matches, the worst she can recall.

 'This year the weather has been so variable and so bad at times that I think at the moment our assessment is it's almost certainly the weather that's impacting (attendance),' Ms Bolton said.

A total of 36,630 fans attended on Friday - down more than 5,000 from last year's 42,279 for the same day - after rain saw the start of play delayed by more than two hours.

Figures across the first week of Wimbledon dropped to 282,955, almost 4 per cent fewer visitors than the 293,681 who attended during the same period last year.

Ms Bolton denied that the popularity of SW19 had been impacted by the retirement of big personalities such as, most recently, Andy Murray.

She said there was a 'genuine excitement' among tennis fans about younger stars such as 20-year-old American Coco Guaff and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.

'I know we are less concerned than we were perhaps a few years ago, there's a real changing of the guard, passing of the baton,' she added.

The lower turnout may also have been compounded by a big weekend for British sport with Lewis Hamilton winning the British Grand Prix and England's success in the Euros on Saturday.

However Ms Bolton said she was more worried about the rain then any potential impact England's semi-final against the Netherlands could have on attendance tomorrow (Weds).

'I'm not concerned about a football impact. At this point I'm concerned about it still being raining on Wednesday,' she added.

The chief executive said it had been the most challenging tournament to schedule since her tenure began in 2020 due to the 'unpredictability of the weather'.

'It just means that when you are looking ahead to a day, you start with a plan in mind and the rain really is quite unpredictable,' she added.

While conditions are forecast to be similar this week, Ms Bolton believes the tournament can get back on schedule but said moving matches indoors was an option but it remained a 'last resort'.

'We now have an extra day, we've got the two roofs, so, in terms of resilience to get through the Championships, we're confident we can still do that despite the continuing variability of the weather.

'We've got a range of contingencies. Going indoors is one of those options but that really would be a bit of a last resort,' she added.

Officials have already made one concession with matches in the first two rounds of the mixed doubles reduced from best-of-three sets to a first-to-10-point tie-break if the first two sets.

The final of the mixed doubles is scheduled to take place on Thursday but some pairs are still waiting to play their opening-round contests.

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2024-07-08T18:43:42Z dg43tfdfdgfd