WIMBLEDON referee Andrew Jarrett today hit back after complaints from players over some of the decisions at the 2007 Championships.
I spoke to Andrew earlier this morning, with a verdict on a third Monday looming.
Play is about to start here. But more rain is forecast at some stage this afternoon.
First, Andrew served up a response to the comments of Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian about not putting the players first.
“I understand players becoming frustrated with the situation. We all are,” he said, standing on the roof of the press centre.
“It’s difficult when players are going on and off court. Nobody wants that, whether it’s you guys in your profession – you want tennis to write about, we want to get the tournament through, the players want to play.
“So, yeah, understandably there’s frustrations and they’re under huge pressure for their matches.
“As far as fairness to players, that’s always our main consideration. We’ll try and treat all players equally and try to give them the fairest conditions that we possibly can.”
With that rain on the way, to be followed by promised dry weather, he confirmed plans were in place to extend the Championships.
“Contingency plans for all of these things, middle Sunday, third Monday, are made back in the winter. So it’s just a question of whether or not we action those plans or not.
“At the moment it’s still possible to finish on Sunday, and that’s what we’re planning to do.
“We can only look on a day by day basis. We know what matches we’ve got on the schedule today.
“Only at the end of today will we know what we’ve got left that didn’t get played today. So, at the moment, it’s still possible to finish Sunday.
“The main priority – and we’ve got a lot of priority matches today – is the bottom half of the men’s singles.
“We certainly need to finish that today and that’s right up there at the top of the schedule at 11 o’clock today, so it has the best chance of finishing.
“To that extent, the order of play is defensive against the weather.”
Andrew pointed out that a third Monday is always possible, even with a sunny Wimbledon.
“We could have twelve-and-a-half days of perfect weather, and if at the end of the 13th day we had bad weather, we’d have a third Monday.”
Does he personally feel under any pressure?
“I’m under pressure to produce the best that we can out of the situation that we’re given.
“Now that’s something that we have no control over. So the weather will give us what it gives us and all we can do is to use the cards that we’re given to the best we can possibly achieve.”
What about players and fans who said the tournament should have played a Middle Sunday, when the weather was sunny and dry.
“There are a lot of factors involved with Middle Sunday. I know that the Club has discussed it many times. It’s a far wider issue than simply on the tennis front.
“As far as this year was concerned, on Saturday morning we could not have been further advanced in the singles than we were.
“We were exactly where we needed to be on Saturday morning. And we were looking at a forecast that was less than flattering for Sunday.
“There was a severe danger, at that stage, if we’d have announced Middle Sunday, we may have played every match that we needed to play on Saturday.
“We may then have come in and – what are we here for?”
What about Nadal’s specific complaint about play being called off for the day during rain early one evening, then it was sunny at 8.10pm with enough light for one hour’s further play?
For one thing, the grass is starting to get wet at that time of night, he explained. “That’s clearly a factor.
“Once you start to look past 8 o’clock, if we’re playing, ‘Let’s hope it stops raining, let’s hope it gets bright enough to play, and are we going to keep the players here for a further hour and a half, when we desperately need this match to finish, and we can bring them back earlier tomorrow, because we’re letting them go tonight.’ Then these are the decisions we’re facing all the time.
“And I think, as we live in these islands, as we all do, we know it’s a little tough to tell what’s going to be happening even 15 minutes from now sometimes.”
We then turned to complaints from fans about the delays in uncovering courts after rain delays and then getting players back on court.
“We’re dealing with a living surface. We’re dealing with a surface that, to a degree, retains moisture.
“To a degree also, it depends on the air conditions that we have. So it’s not simply a question of, ‘Take the covers off and the court is ready.’
“It depends on, obviously, how much rain fell before the covers went down. But also – what was the temperature like when the covers were on? Were the covers sweating underneath?
“When the covers come off, is it a heavy air temperature, or is it nice bright sunshine with a drying breeze? All of these things are factors in that equation.”
Does he regret any of the decisions made this year?
“I’m vaguely aware that there are certain things that people will always say. And I understand that.
“Outside of the referee’s office, I can understand that people don’t see the whole picture.
“But it is a complex picture and given the situations that we’ve had, I believe that with the exceptional people around me to advise me, who are doing a fantastic job, I honestly believe that we’ve got the best out of the cards that we’ve been dealt so far weatherwise.”
How do players express their concerns to officials?
“They’re very free to come in, either themselves personally, through their coaches, their agents etc. We welcome them.
“We do it on probably a five-minutely basis. People coming in with various queries, questions etc. That’s an ongoing thing and we’d expect that, even in a totally dry fortnight.
“So, obviously, the questions do multiply, the workload goes up enormously with bad weather, because the obvious questions are, ‘What’s it looking like? When’s the rain going to stop? Am I likely to play tonight? Is my court going to get changed? Things like that.
“We listen to the players all of the time. We hear what they say and I can genuinely say that we have the players’ interests at heart.
“A long time ago I was a modest player myself, and so, therefore, in similar situations I’m sure I probably thought about, ‘Why was I put on court here?’ Or ‘I wish I was there,’ That type of thing.