A record number of British players are through to the second round of singles at Wimbledon, but crowds have stayed sparser than usual most likely due to coronavirus fears and wet weather.
Emma Raducanu and Sir Andy Murray are among nine Britons through to the next round in the best team GB performance since 1997, however, some Centre Court seats have been left empty even for the big games.
Some 36,603 fans attended the first day while 39,450 came on the second.
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) organisers had expected 42,000 tickets to be sold daily.
This year marks the return to full capacity for the first time since 2019 amid cancellation in 2020 due to coronavirus and a 50% limit in 2021.
Coronavirus has taken out last year’s runner-up and one of the favourites for this year’s men’s title, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, and Croatian former finalist Marin Cilic.
Mark Wyatt, 32, a fitness manager based in Wanstead, east London, said people were still cautious about returning to his gym due to coronavirus and he believed the same worries were affecting the Wimbledon turnout.
He told the PA news agency: “Wimbledon was reaching its peak in 2019 after ‘Murray mania’ and people really getting into tennis, and I think it’s taken a hit with numbers this year, and the weather not being quite as hot as it has been is maybe a reason.
“It’s definitely not as busy as it was previously.
“I think Covid would put some people off for sure.
“You’ve had people not going to sporting events, getting out of (the) habit, isolating a lot, not necessarily having social contact.”
Mr Wyatt, who was queueing for premium on-the-day tickets on Wednesday morning with his father David Wyatt, 68, pointed out that many empty seats were in the corporate sections of the stands, leaving less space for “true tennis fans”.
The gym trainer told PA: “I do feel that if they didn’t get quite as many corporate tickets or giving these tickets to these associations and then people are taking them or turning up, we’d get better atmospheres for these big players, which would help.”
His father, a retired teacher, added: “When we’ve occasionally had a wet Sunday play, and they just sold tickets to everybody and it was the real tennis fans that turned up, there were no corporate people at all and it was a totally different atmosphere.”
Alex Woods, 34, a consultant for an advertising firm in Bristol, said he believed the cost-of-living crisis and airport chaos was also impacting ticket sales.
“There’s obviously a few things going on at the moment which probably prohibits people coming to things like this – it’s an expensive day out,” he told PA.
“You’ve seen at Lord’s as well, the cricket’s not been selling out, and that’s normally guaranteed.
“Also, it’s harder to move around, getting into this country is probably putting a few international tourists coming to Wimbledon off.
“It’s a shame, particularly when you see the later matches – Murray the other day with a few empty seats – thinking I’d love to be there.
“But at the same time the atmosphere is great, there’s a good amount of people here today, and obviously not being able to come to these sorts of things the last couple of years, or reduced at Wimbledon last year, I think it’s still pretty great.”
Tom Walewski, 64, who travelled from the Polish capital of Warsaw for the tournament, said seeing empty seats in Centre Court was “frustrating” because “there are a lot of people who really want to go and see and enjoy the day”.
“I don’t really know what the policy is regarding tickets, attendance, however, people who are queuing desperately want to go to the Centre Court, and second choice is of course Court 1,” he said.
On Tuesday, tennis titan Serena Williams, 40, suffered a surprise defeat in her first singles match against France’s Harmony Tan – possibly marking her last Wimbledon appearance.
Day three heralds the return of 19-year-old Raducanu against Caroline Garcia after her stunning Centre Court debut win, while veteran Murray will play America’s John Isner.
Wildcard Ryan Peniston will return to the courts against America’s Steve Johnson after winning his first match on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old told reporters that having cancer as a baby had been a “blessing in disguise” for making him “tougher as a player” after beating Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen.
Jodie Burrage, who was knocked out of the singles on day one during a game which saw her revive a fainting ball boy with Percy Pig sweets, will return to the courts with Eden Silva in the first round of doubles.
The Met Office has forecast sunshine and light winds for south-east London on Wednesday with a chance of rain and maximum temperatures of 22C.