WIMBLEDON – The second Monday at Wimbledon, after the day of rest on Sunday, is supposed to be THE day.
Round-of-16 matches in men's and women's singles, then a day of rest before they play their quarterfinal round. And at this stage of the tournament, with the matches getting closer, longer and more grueling, they need that off-day. But many of them won't get it. Even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who did complete their fourth-round matches Saturday, won't get it.
The roof ensures that, for television and Centre Court ticket-holders, there will be tennis. But with no tarp over the rest of the courts, where the majority of the matches are played, it doesn't help the integrity of the tournament schedule.
Wimbledon lost nearly six hours of play because of persistent rain on Saturday. And that meant two third-round matches – John Isner vs. Feliciano Lopez and Stan Wawrinka vs. Denis Istomin – were canceled outright partway through the day.
As well, No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori and lucky loser Simone Bolelli were locked in at 3-3 in the fifth set when it got too dark to see the ball Saturday night. When play resumes Monday, they could play 10 minutes. Or they could play five more hours; there's no deciding tiebreaker in the fifth set of men's singles at Wimbledon.
Because of that, and in the interest of trying to make the playing field level for everyone, those still alive in the bottom half of the men's draw – that includes Nadal, Federer and No. 8 seed Milos Raonic – will have to wait until Tuesday to play their fourth-round matches.
And then, they must play another best-of-five set singles match on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
So, for Isner, Lopez, Nishikori or whoever else comes out of Monday's matches, that means best-of-five set matches on three consecutive days if they want to make the final four. For Nadal, Federer and Raonic, through no fault of their own, it would be three matches in four days.
"That's one thing that they've done to try to be fair to all the players. It's not an easy decision for anyone because we have also the Sunday off with the tradition at Wimbledon," Wawrinka coach Magnus Norman told Press Association Sport. "The best thing for the players would be to play today and have Monday off but you have to take everything into consideration and I think they're doing a great job trying to be fair to everyone."
Meanwhile, weather permitting, the top half of the men's draw, which includes No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Andy Murray, will remain on the standard "one match every two days" schedule because they all play their round-of-16 matches on Monday.
As it was, that half already had a break, because most played their third-round matches on Friday and have two full days of rest before this one.
Raonic wasn't really aware of it when he spoke to the media after his third-round win Saturday but at the time, his next opponent (Nishikori or Bolelli) was yet to be determined and there was no reason to think they wouldn't be able to finish their match Saturday evening.
Federer, who has seen all this before during his decade at Wimbledon, had it on his radar.
"Yeah, I guess Stan's section and Isner's section, they have to play three straight days now. There could be 15 sets right there, long sets. You don't know what's going to happen. It's a bit of the unknown. I mean, these guys are all fit enough to handle it, but it can have an impact, no doubt," he said after winning his third consecutive straight-set match in the tournament. "I might be also impacted. ... I might not play on Monday now. I don't know what the situation is. Yeah, you can't choose always. It is what it is and you have to adapt to it."
Nadal also was well aware.
"If my opponents are not playing tomorrow, they are playing on Monday, I will be playing on Tuesday, and the winner will be playing again on Wednesday. That's not good. That's not a positive thing," Nadal said. " In one way is positive that I'm already done. For sure my opponents are in a worse position. But again, cannot be perfect."
Nick Kyrgios, the 19-year-old Aussie wild card who will play Nadal, is probably so darn happy just to be in the second week, playing Nadal on a big court, he'd probably play at 6 a.m. or midnight or in the middle of a driving rainstorm if that's what they asked him to do. But the extra day of rest actually won't hurt him; he'll need every bit of his energy and physicality just to stay with the two-time champion.
Nadal is no stranger to tough scheduling and rain delays. No doubt he still remembers well needing five days to get through a third-round match with future nemesis Robin Soderling, back in 2007.
Nadal finally closed out that match on the Tuesday; Federer was already in the quarterfinals after a default from Tommy Haas (now there's a theme) before Nadal even played his round-of-16 match.
The two ended up meeting in the final that year, with Nadal fading in the fifth set as Federer won it 6-2. Did the rain delays and the adjusted schedule play a role? Probably.
The women are affected, but to a lesser extent. Ana Ivanovic and Sabine LIsicki must finish their third-round match on Court 1 Monday. As a result, No. 3 seed Simona Halep and opponent Zarina Diyas won't play their fourth-round match Monday; the winner of that one plays the winner of ivanovic-Lisicki, so they're trying to keep that fair.
What they did not do on the women's side is hold back the rest of that half of the draw – meaning Genie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova, among others – the way they did for the men. Under perfect weather circumstances, all the women would play their quarterfinal matches on Tuesday; obviously, that won't happen now.
There's no fix; it's just the luck of the draw and the power of the weather gods although in the end, the entire top half benefited because Murray, as defending champion, had the honor of opening play on Centre Court on Monday. As a result, the rest of his half of the draw followed that schedule and got their third-rounders in on Friday.
But if, in the end, someone from the top half wins Wimbledon in part because of the weather roulette, they can thank the Scot.