Andy Murray did his best to beat the clock on the Centre Court on Saturday, defeating Marcos Baghdatis just after the 11pm curfew. Yesterday on a dark, damp and exposed No.1 Court he could not defy the rain, although he was putting daylight between himself and Marin Cilic.
His biggest opponent, though, appeared to be the match schedulers. A series of decisions could force Murray to play on four days out of five if he defeats Cilic.
The Scot was moving with poise and purpose to the quarter finals, leading the Croat 7-5, 3-1, when the forecast rain intervened. It was then that the folly of the match schedule was revealed, and not just for Murray and Cilic.
The first defence of Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club, was that everyone has to play on an outside court at some point in the tournament. They do not. That is not a rule.
It has become a practice but surely Murray should have been scheduled to play his outside match last week when the forecast was known well in advance to be good. The rain this week has been forecast for some time. It was inevitable on Sunday night that yesterday's play would be severely curtailed.
Murray's biggest rivals – Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer – had the roof if needed. They are now through to the last eight.
Murray was not only put on No.1 Court but placed second. He thus had to wait until Sabine Lisicki had beaten Maria Sharapova in one hour 24 minutes. These 84 minutes may have been enough for the 25-year-old to reach the quarter-finals.
The second defence by the organisers is that they have to be fair to everybody. Indeed, some suggested that there would be a hostile reaction from world tennis bodies if the Scot was favoured. The only response to this is a hoot of laughter.
First, if Paris or New York had a roof – and a genuine local contender – what does one think would have happened there under similar circumstances? Secondly, the schedule is not fair. And it did not just act against Murray and Cilic.
Richard Gasquet or Florian Mayer will play Djokovic in the quarter-finals. A tough task under any circumstances. But how about this for an added complication? The Frenchman and the German must start their match today on Court No.3, where it will be raining, with Mayer leading by a set and 2-1 in the second. If they finish the match sometime this afternoon, they play the best player in the world the next day. Djokovic will have had a light hit, some recovery work and a day off.
So how could the organisers have avoided this patently unfair situation? They could have moved Gasquet-Mayer under the roof as there was three hours playing time after the defending champion dismissed Viktor Troicki.
Djokovic said organisers had told them that there were concerns that crowds would have to have been moved, that people on Court No.3 would have wanted to see "their" match. This is not convincing. One buys a ticket for a court, not a match. This, after all, was the organisers' defence to those who bought tickets for Monday on Centre Court to see Murray, only to find the British No.1 was playing on No.1 Court.
The organisers, too, cited rules about not moving matches that have started. Scrutiny of the rule reveals that there is enough wriggle room to switch matches. There is a stipulation that matches must not be moved "except with the agreement of the players". Murray, Cilic, Gasquet and Mayer may have reasonably been expected to nod in approval when told their fourth-round matches would be played under a roof and to a finish.
The situation now is complicated in the men's draw. The two strongest players in the top half, Djokovic and Federer, are through and the Swiss player knows he will play Mikhail Youzhny. But no one can say who will play Djokovic or when that will be settled.
The forecast for today is dreadful. Mayer and Gasquet are at the mercy of the weather and could play for hours. They could not play at all. The first circumstance does not guarantee a finish. The second circumstance forbids one. Then they will have to play the world No.1 tomorrow.
Murray's irritation may be increased when he looks at today's order of play. He is back on court for a high noon meeting with Cilic again. If he wins – and he was playing strongly yesterday – he will face either David Ferrer or Juan Martin Del Potro. But surely the Spaniard and the Argentine face the same situation as Murray and Cilic? After all, they were both scheduled for No.1 Court yesterday.
But, no. Ferrer and Del Potro will play under the roof at noon today. Their match has been moved, presumably with the "agreement of the players". The organisers will cite that neither hit a ball yesterday but they know this contradicts the mumblings about organisation and they know it flies in the face of any pretence at fairness.
The conclusion is that Gasquet and Mayer must face a rested Djokovic. Murray – with Rafael Nadal back in Mallorca, Federer having a day off to tend to his bad back and Djokovic having played three of his four matches under the roof – must now watch as the schedule favours a potential opponent.
Time and tide waits for no man but officials for Wimbledon must be praying that the rain passes quickly today. Damage has been done but the capacity to tilt the tournament to an irrevocable unfairness will increase with every raindrop.