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Wimbledon 2023: Djokovic calls for earlier Centre Court starts

Wimbledon should start matches earlier on Centre Court to avoid players falling foul of the strict 11pm (3:30AM IST) curfew, defending champion Novak Djokovic said on Monday after needing two days two beat Hubert Hurkacz in the fourth round.

For the second match in succession the 36-year-old Djokovic faced a race against the clock to finish when he stepped on court at around 8.30pm on Sunday to face Hurkacz.

He narrowly managed it against Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Friday in a similar time window but Poland’s big-serving Hurkacz’s stern resistance meant only two sets were possible, Djokovic winning both of them on tiebreaks.

Djokovic duly completed a 7-6(6), 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4 victory on Monday to set up a clash with Russia’s Andrey Rublev on Tuesday but was asked for his opinion on the scheduling which has come in for criticism with Centre Court play starting at 1.30pm.

“Obviously curfew is probably something that is much more difficult to change, I understand, because of the community and the residential area we are in,” the Serb told reporters.

“I think the matches could be pushed at least to start at 12.00. I think it would make a difference.”

Play starts at 1pm on Court One and 11am on the outside courts at the All England Club with the late Centre Court start partly to accommodate those with hospitality tickets.

Britain’s two-time champion Andy Murray was left frustrated when his second round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas was interrupted on Thursday night just after he had taken a two sets to one lead. On the resumption on Friday, he lost in five sets.

Djokovic said that walking on to Centre Court not knowing whether there is time to finish added to the stress.

“Once it’s part 8pm you know that there’s a high probability you won’t finish your match,” Djokovic, who racked up a 32nd consecutive win at Wimbledon in what was his 100th match, said.

“That was the case against Wawrinka and Hurkacz. Both of the matches started almost actually 9pm.

“I warmed up for both of those matches around 1pm, something like this. Should you go back to the accommodation, the house nearby, or should you stay. Yesterday I decided to stay. I stayed basically for seven hours waiting for my match to start.”

Djokovic will not have any worries about curfews on Tuesday in what will be his 56th Grand Slam quarterfinal.

His clash with Rublev is second on after Iga Swiatek’s women’s quarterfinal against Elina Svitolina.

He will start as a big favourite against Russian seventh seed Rublev, who has reached eighth Grand Slam quarterfinals but never progressed further.

“Andrey Rublev is a fantastic player who’s got one of the best forehands in the game,” Djokovic said.

“Brings a lot of intensity to the court with his grunts. He kind of scares off his opponents across the net. Extremely nice guy. Very nice person.” 

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