LONDON – They were buggin’ out at Wimbledon on Wednesday.
Hundreds of flying ants swarmed around various courts at the All England Club, distracting players during their matches, as the temperature warmed up considerably, from the low 70s (20s Celsius) to nearly 85 degrees (nearly 30 Celsius).
It left the racket-wielders swatting the bugs instead of tennis balls, at times.
Steve Johnson, an American seeded 26th, was startled when one of the critters buzzed its way into his right ear at the precise moment that he came up with a forehand winner during what would become a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Radu Albot of Moldova.
Johnson did a little dance while he extracted the invader.
“Thankfully, I ended the point right there, because I wouldn’t have run for the next ball. It just got in there. Eventually it got out, but I didn’t want it to get any further than it did,” Johnson said.
“They were everywhere,” he said. “It was a mess out there. I’ve never seen that here before.”
Local media have reported about a wave of flying ants across Britain this week, a migration of sorts that is a result of just the right combination of heat, humidity and wind.
“Well,” Johnson said, “they migrated to Wimbledon.”
Especially during the early afternoon on Day 3 of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
Before Johnson headed out to Court 18, 24th-seeded Sam Querrey played his match there, and dealt with the same type of issues created by the little winged things.
“If it got much worse,” Querrey said after beating Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, “I almost wanted to stop, because they were hitting you in the face when you were trying to hit balls.”
The rules would allow Querrey to ask the chair umpire to consider halting play, at which point a Grand Slam supervisor might head to the court to weigh in.
It never reached that point Wednesday, although things did get particularly bad for about a half-hour that included the end of the second set, the only one Querrey dropped.
“If I had won that set,” he said, “probably wouldn’t have bugged me as much.”
Johanna Konta, Britain’s best chance for its first female champion at Wimbledon in 40 years, fretted about swallowing some of the ants during her 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 victory over Donna Vekic at Centre Court.
“I definitely have taken home a few — both in my belly and in my bags,” the No. 6-seeded Konta said.
A reporter asked her whether the insects were tasty.
“I didn’t think about it,” came the reply. “I’d rather not.”