Rafael Nadal made clear that he was far from happy with Wimbledon organisers’ decision to keep the Centre Court roof closed throughout his two-day semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic.
Play began after 8pm on Friday night with the Centre Court roof already shut to cast light on a gloomy court following the six-and-a-half-hour epic clash between Kevin Anderson and John Isner.
Djokovic ended the day two sets to one up but had to overcome an almighty fightback from Nadal in tropical conditions, with the early afternoon sun beaming down on Wimbledon but the roof firmly shut, to eventually win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8.
Asked whether he thought it made sense to continue play on Saturday with Centre Court covered Nadal replied succinctly: “No. I will not talk more about this. If [I do], you are going to write about this, and I don’t want you to write about this today.”
The indoor conditions might be viewed as favourable to Djokovic, unbeaten in indoor matches against the Spaniard since 2010.
The greater humidity of Centre Court allowed the ball to skid lower, negating some of the explosive topspin of Nadal, but Djokovic denied the suggestion that he had asked for the roof to be kept shut.
“The tournament organisers and referees said that the roof has to be closed because we started the match with the roof closed. They told us we had to play under the roof.
“There was a dialogue. Did I express a preference? No. I was for the roof because we started to play, and I wanted to play in the same conditions.
“I didn’t ask them. I just expressed my opinion because they asked me for my opinion. But as I understood, they already made a decision.”
Wimbledon protocols dictate that it is up to the referee to decide whether the roof will be open or closed but are not clear on whether he can consult players.
Regardless of whether the roof should have been opened or not it unquestionably added to the atmosphere in a match that will go down as one of the greatest of the record 52 meetings between these old foes.
Nadal insisted after his defeat that it was a match both deserved to win and Djokovic was equally full of praise for the unlucky loser.
“He’s probably the greatest fighter ever to play this game,” the Serb said. “I mean, he battles every single point like it’s his last. That’s something that is so impressive with Rafa. That’s what makes him so difficult to beat on any surface.
“You come into the match against him, knowing that you have to earn your points, it is already an energy-spending moment. So you have to be ready for it, obviously. That’s why you put in X amount of hours on the practice court,
preparation, trying to be as professional as you can, because you need to compete with a guy like Nadal. He does the same.”