As the second week of Wimbledon begins today, we have already seen quite a bit of controversy as week one comes to a close: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both unexpectedly upset early in the tournament, several players had to retire or withdraw due to injury, and players questioned the conditions of the grass courts. However, the biggest news story involves British hopeful Andy Murray as he continues his quest to win his first championship at Wimbledon. Great Britain has not produced a native winner at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won in 1936. Cubs’ fans would argue that 77 years without a champion is nothing, however this year may provide the most hope for Great Britain, as world No. 2 Murray strives to break the streak.
The pressure for Murray to win seems to have intensified significantly, as Murray’s success on the court has picked up over the last year. He appeared in the finals of Wimbledon last year, won the gold medal at the London Olympics, and then won his first Grand Slam – The U.S. Open – a month later. He continued 2013 right where he left off, claiming runner-up to world number one, Novak Djokovic, at the Australian Open in January. In addition to Murray’s success on the court, the early exit of former Wimbledon champions Federer and Nadal have all but cleared the path to the final for Murray. But is the pressure of a nation too much for Murray? After his third round match, Murray was quoted saying “there’s a lot more pressure on me now with them [Nadal and Federer] being out.” If Murray’s first three rounds of play are any indication, he is playing some of his best tennis, as he has yet to drop a set during play.
With several fan favorites such as Federer, Nadal, and Maria Sharapova out of the event prior to the second week of play, will Wimbledon see a drop in ticket demand or revenue?
I believe the country’s infatuation with Murray’s attempt at a Wimbledon championship will account for higher ticket demand and increased revenue at this year’s tournament. In addition, although former champions Federer and Nadal have been eliminated, the top two seeds, Djokovic and Murray, are still going strong, and are expected to meet in Sunday’s final. According to the official Wimbledon website, a statement was released Sunday afternoon encouraging fans to stay home from the queuing line, as there were “more people in the Wimbledon Queue than the [ticket] allocation of Centre and No. 1 Court tickets for [Monday].” It should be noted, the schedule of play for Monday includes the ladies’ No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, followed by Murray and concluding with Djokovic’s match.
Each day, approximately 1,500 tickets are reserved for Centre Court, Court Number One and Court Number Two for those in the queuing line. There are additional grounds passes available; however, these tickets do not grant access to the three main courts. In addition to the queuing tickets, Viagogo, a ticket-selling website similar to StubHub, has tickets listed for next Sunday’s final starting at $5,705. According to the British newspaper, The Telegraph, this demand is approximately 40 percent higher than it was at this stage in the tournament last year. Undoubtedly, this increase in demand is based on the public’s belief that their favorite Brit will be competing for the title come Sunday. Last year, re-sale ticket prices soared as high as $5,930 for the men’s final between Federer and Murray.
Although it seems there is more demand than quantity allocated at Wimbledon, many have complained of half-filled stadiums, even when fan-favorite players are on court. Both defending champions, Federer and Williams, opened up their Wimbledon journeys to less than capacity crowds during the first round, which caused some to question the misuse of corporate tickets. These empty seats brought back memories of the 2012 London Olympic Games, when Olympic organizers investigated several venues, including Wimbledon, for issuing too many corporate and sponsorship seats, that went un-used. Wimbledon had defended its ticketing policy, claiming the tournament attempts to limit the number of corporate tickets issued every year, with public ticket sales accounting for 53 percent of Centre Court tickets at the tournament this year. As the second week continues, we can expect to see stadiums filled to capacity, as the urgency to win increases with each match played.
Although we don’t know who will be in the men’s final next Sunday, as long as Murray remains a contender, we can expect fans to show up in full force. Although former champions Federer and Nadal disappointed many with their poor showing, the hopes of a nation are carried on the shoulders of the 26-year-old Murray – which I believe is a more compelling story than any upset in week one.