Anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to go and watch the tennis at Wimbledon will tell you what an amazing experience it is. The world’s greatest tennis players, the polite-yet-passionate crowd, the Pimms, Henman Hill, the strawberries, the hoping-that-someone-loses-their-rag-like-McEnroe, the possibility of seeing an A-list Hollywood star or two and, latterly, the my-god-a-Brit-is-actually-going-to-win-the-men’s-singles-this-was-unthinkable-in-the-Jeremy-Bates-era glory: yes, Wimbledon is fantastic.
And that goes for any of the days, and any of the courts you visit during the two weeks the tournament runs, let alone if you’re fortunate enough to get a spot on a show court, or for the final. So anyone who’s got a centre court ticket for Sunday would have been counting their lucky stars: the men’s final, which could be a re-rerun of the 2008 classic between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - aka the greatest match in the history of tennis.
But not this year. Because this year the fates have decided - improbably, and pending the result of a certain match on Wednesday night - that England might be playing in the football World Cup final at the same time as the men’s final.
The shadow of the World Cup has hung over the whole of this year’s Wimbledon tournament, with England’s unexpectedly good progress dominating the headlines, especially with Andy Murray falling foul of injury and deciding not to compete. This has led to a tricky issue for organisers: whether to acknowledge that the football is the main story and allow people to watch it, or steadfastly stick to their guns and insist that tennis is the only course on the (set) menu.
The men’s final is due to take place at 14:00 BST on Sunday, with the football final kicking off two hours later; thus it is highly likely that the finale of the tennis will overlap with the start of England’s possible bid for World Cup glory.
However, tennis chiefs have now ruled out the possibility of moving the start time to ensure that the men’s final would be completed in time for the football final, as well as ruling out any sort of big-screen showing of the game from Russia.
“We have said for a couple of years that the final will be played at 2pm, as it is every year,” said All England Tennis Club boss Richard Lewis.
He also told the BBC that Wimbledon’s big TV screen on ‘Henman Hill’ was reserved for tennis.
Lewis said he had not asked FIFA to consider moving the World Cup final to a different time.
He continued: “We are a sold-out event and there’s massive interest. There are absolutely no plans to change anything.”
However, he did offer a way that fans would be able to watch the game if they wanted to; albeit not quite with the same communal atmosphere as a big screen showing.
“We are very excited about England’s success in the World Cup. We think it’s fantastic for the spirit of the nation and there was a very good atmosphere here on Saturday when England beat Sweden.
“We didn’t have one single complaint of anybody here feeling that the football interfered with their enjoyment of Wimbledon. We have free public Wi-Fi in many areas, so if people want to watch quietly on their phone or tablet they are able to do so.”
The rules of entry to the grounds of SW19 state that devices “must be switched off in and around the courts of play”, but this appears to have been relaxed for this year only.
Having said all of this, if England are 1-0 up at half-time, you can bet your life that if whoever is in charge of the big screen on Henman Hill doesn’t change the channel, they’ll be subject to a sustained verbal volley of a ferocity which John McEnroe could only dream of.