Attendance on the first day of Wimbledon was notably low despite people queuing at the gates all night, with organizers saying they were expecting a “record crowd”.
More than 36,600 people alone gathered at the All England Club in SW19 to watch sports stars including Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Emma Radukanu as the tournament returned to full force for the first time in three years.
Organizers were expecting 42,000 spectators a day – the maximum capacity – but many seats were empty on Monday, even on Center Court.
It came as thousands of people lined up for award tickets for the day.
Several fans camped outside said they thought attendance was lower, even in line, due to the absence of fan favorite Roger Federer this year.
Concerns about Covid-19, which has already taken two players out of the race, and rainy weather may have also put some people off.
Colm O’Donnell from Ashford in Kent said: “This is my fifth year and in 2017, 2018, 2019 I saw Roger Federer.
“This is the first year that I feel neutral not seeing my favorite player, who I would really pay good money to see him on the court.”
Mr. O’Donnell said he could have taken part in the vote, as in previous years, if Federer played.
The tournament has already been hit by the coronavirus, knocking out last year’s runner-up and Wimbledon favorite Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who tested positive on Tuesday.
His withdrawal follows the departure of former Croatian finalist Marin Cilic, who announced on Monday that he had also tested positive for Covid-19.
Holding the prestigious grass court competition for a full 14 days means thousands more spectators are expected to attend the event, officials said.
In previous years, players took a break mid-Sunday to allow the courts to recover, but with improved technology, that is no longer necessary, said the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC).
Speaking before the first matches, Sally Bolton told reporters, “(It’s) the first year of a permanent average Sunday, so we’re expecting a record number of viewers because of it.”
Day two heralds Serena Williams’ first match in the tournament against Frenchwoman Harmony Tan, who at 24 is 16 years her junior.
The American athlete is looking to achieve a record 24th Grand Slam singles title.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old American Coco Gauff will face Romanian Elena-Gabriela Rousse, who is on the cusp of a top 10 breakout after reaching her first Grand Slam final at the French Open earlier this month.
Men’s No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain is battling for his third consecutive Grand Slam title and 23rd overall despite suffering a serious foot injury from the French Open less than a month ago.
Ten British players will also take to the famous courts in southwest London.
Both men and women of Britain’s No. 1s scored impressive wins on the first day, with Cameron Norrie having a rain-cut triumph before Emma Raducanou won her Center Court debut.
Women’s singles players Harriet Dart, Katie Boulter, Katie Swan and Sonai Kartal are looking to repeat that success on Day 2.
Meanwhile, Birmingham native No. 2 Brit Dan Evans will be joined by Jack Draper, Liam Brody, Ryan Peniston, Paul Jubb and Alastair Gray in the men’s morning matches.
It comes after Great Britain’s Jody Burrage revived an unconscious ball boy with Percy Pig sweets on the first day, while play was suspended at other courts due to rain.
After a poor start at Wimbledon on Tuesday, the sun is expected.
The Met Office is predicting ‘quite windy’ weather for southwest London with patchy sunshine and a maximum temperature of 23C (73.4F).