Wimbledon will welcome around 1,000 local Ukrainian refugees and their host families plus NHS health service and other charity workers to the newly instigated matches on the middle Sunday of the fortnight.
The “day off” at the All England Club which has been a part of the schedule for decades, was eliminated for the edition which begins on Monday – presumably under pressure from TV interests.
But tournament bosses are determined to turn the day of fourth-round play into something special by bringing in Ukrainians who have settled with sponsors in the local area due to the Russian invasion of their homeland.
The goodwill effort will hopefully go some way to mollifying the club’s neighbours, who have always viewed the middle Sunday pause in play as something of a welcome respite.
The club will also be inviting “COVID heroes from the NHS and social care, and a variety of schools, charities and community groups.”
“We are also pleased to confirm that the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK will be joining us in the Royal Box on the opening day’s play,” a statement read.
The effort comes as Wimbledon’s ban on player entries form Russia and Belarus sparked a backlash from the ATP and WTA which stripped all ranking points from the grandest of the four Grand Slams.
But the event will no doubt soldier on thanks to a prize money pot of a record GBP 40 million (USD 50 million), with first-round losers trousering a handy GBP 50,000 (USD 61,000).