A long-sought change to the tennis calendar this season will allow players to arrive at Wimbledon better prepared to play on grass, tournament chairman Phil Brook said.
For the first time, there will be three weeks instead of two between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon. The transition from the slow clay courts of the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris to the faster lawns at the All England Club in London is regarded as one of the toughest in the sport, partly because the grass-court season is the shortest of all surfaces on which tennis is played.
“We wanted to give the players more of a rest and to recover mentally and physically from Roland Garros, but also then to prepare on grass ahead of our championships,” Brook said Tuesday in an interview on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. “We’ve long felt that two weeks was too short.”
In 2013, seven-time winner Roger Federer and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova were upset in the second round as injuries and retirements wiped out a one-day record seven players from the Wimbledon singles draws, prompting the British Broadcasting Corp. to dub it “Wacky Wednesday.”
“One of the things that we hope will happen this year is that every player competing at the championships will take the opportunity to play one competitive week of tennis during that three weeks,” Brook said. “There have been players in the past, some of whom have been very successful here, who haven’t competed. Our view is that by competing, you do test your body and your movement in a way that’s quite hard to replicate through practice.”
The calendar change could benefit nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal of Spain. The day after the Roland Garros final, the Spaniard typically has taken the Eurostar train from Paris to London to begin his grass-court practice at Queen’s Club. Nadal won the last of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010, and has not advanced beyond the round of 16 since he was a runner-up in 2011.
After lobbying the men’s and women’s tours and talking to broadcasters and players, Wimbledon decided in 2012 to move its event a week.
The calendar change will be implemented this season, meaning there will be a three-week grass-court swing leading into Wimbledon, which starts June 29. New events have been added in Stuttgart, Germany, and Nottingham, England, while existing tournaments in Halle, Germany, and at Queen’s Club in London have been given more prize money and ranking points.
Wimbledon helped Stuttgart build grass courts when the German event decided to switch from clay. The All England Club also will be helping out next year in Spain, where the women’s tour is planning a new grass-court tournament on the island of Mallorca.
The longer grass-court season may boost Wimbledon’s profile, according to Brook.
“We hope it will help,” he said. “We’ve long felt it was all a bit of a rush really. Roland Garros finished, the following day Queen’s starts, so there is no real opportunity for Queen’s to have a buildup as an important grass court tournament.
‘‘Queen’s has moved back as well, so they are now in the middle of the three weeks,” he said. “There will be a bit more room to breathe for everybody. For sure we’ll see a greater buildup in lots of ways to the Wimbledon Championships. Just by having the extra week, there will be more chat about how players are going to do.”
Wimbledon was won last year by top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Czech Petra Kvitova. This year’s singles champions each will receive 1.88 million pounds ($2.9 million), 7 percent more than last year. Wimbledon also announced Tuesday that its total prize money has gone up 7 percent to a record 26.75 million pounds.