The scale of the task of the Referee and the Order of Play Sub-Committee is considerable. In deciding the daily Order of Play, the interests of The Championships, served by attention to the interests of players, spectators, national and international TV, radio and online audiences, and the press, must come first.
The daily scheduling of matches on court has to depend on estimates of the average length of different types of matches, and on general assumptions about the weather.
Every attempt is made to have a balanced mixture of men’s and ladies’ singles, men’s and ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles, whenever possible, at the appropriate times during the Fortnight. On the Show Courts in particular, every effort is made to provide balanced, competitive matches. Potentially one-sided matches are avoided. Undue preference must not be shown for men’s matches, although certain days are regarded as ladies’ days.
Players in the same sector of the draw have to be progressed on the same day, whenever possible, in order to synchronise programmes throughout the two weeks, to make sure each stage has the requisite number of players available, and to minimise the effects of bad weather.
Singles matches have to be scheduled very carefully within a day’s programme to allow for possible involvement in doubles/mixed doubles later in the day by the same players.
That players have played matches very late the previous day must be taken into account. Also, some allowance may be made under certain circumstances for temporary illness.
The likely length of the daily programme of any particular mixture of matches has to be very carefully considered. Unfinished matches are undesirable and can cause serious problems in scheduling subsequent singles matches, especially during bad weather conditions, and there is also the knock-on effect on involvement in doubles matches.
The availability of players and matches, and the position on other show courts, can also sometimes make alterations unavoidable to evening schedules. Sometimes the considerations of fairness, completion of the events, and the health and interests of the players, will rightly take precedence over the expectations of spectators.
During periods of bad weather, also, the possibility of having to switch matches from court to court has to be considered.
In the interests of The Championships and of the Wimbledon crowds, and also of domestic and international television and press, every effort is made to put the best players and the best matches on the show courts.
Exciting players with great crowd appeal naturally tend to get the main share of Centre Court in particular, and of No.1 Court, especially when they have a good or close match in prospect. The audiences on Centre Court and No.1 Court, and the much larger audience worldwide watching television, expect to see the top, well-known, players – preferably in great matches.
There can be problems of choice between: (a) matches involving players who are not highly seeded but who are major crowd-pleasers, and (b) matches involving the top-seeded players.
Centre and No.1 Courts are quite different in atmosphere and challenge from all other courts at Wimbledon. The Referee tries to make sure that the top seeds have reasonably similar numbers of appearances on the premier courts before they reach a crucial stage in The Championships. There has to be fairness and justice in the number of appearances of the top seeds on Centre Court and No.1 Court, to avoid unfair familiarity with those courts as between players. A just and fair pattern of appearances is regarded as critical in the world’s premier tennis Championships.
It should also be noted that, with respect to top seeds and ‘idols’, it is easier on the Show Courts to maintain security and ensure the safety of the top players. This understandable bias has to be regularly monitored and adjusted where possible for the sake of fairness.
Scheduling the day’s best matches between Centre and No.1 Courts can often be difficult, especially during the later stages of The Championships. Every effort is made to provide a first-class programme on No.1 Court, but there are more spectators on Centre Court, and there is a ticket price differential between them. While the national and worldwide TV audience can of course be shown matches from either court, even internationally there is a special magic attaching to the Centre Court for audiences and the media.
It is difficult to predict the length of some matches, whether best of three/five sets, but it always has to be borne in mind that if two five-set matches are scheduled which go the full distance to five sets on (say) Centre Court, there may be only two matches that day on that Court.
Some days are particularly difficult to schedule to satisfy everybody – including British hopes, and the crowds. On second Monday, there are normally 16 players left in each of the Men’s and Ladies Singles – a total of 16 matches, which ideally have to be played on that day. Only six of those matches can be played on the Centre Court and No.1 Court, leaving 10 to be played on the outer courts. Priority for the principal Show Courts has to be given to the most attractive matches involving top seeds.
Wimbledon has to be seen to be even-handed and fair, giving due weight to local and national sentiment, and maintaining an international approach. Fairness has to take precedence over sentiment and nationalism.
Because this Grand Slam is staged in Britain, some preference may reasonably be given to British players where appropriate, provided this is not outweighed by other factors more crucial to the interests of The Championships (a similar approach is adopted, in respect of home players, at other Grand Slam tournaments).
The Referee has considerable informal liaison with players/coaches, and also with the ATP/WTA. Wishes or preferences expressed by these individuals/bodies are sympathetically considered. The ATP/WTA monitor the fairness aspects of order of play decisions. Scheduling decisions thought to be sensitive may be informally checked out by the Referee with the player or coach.
Wishes and preferences expressed by the media are given consideration.