Tennis: Call for equality on Wimbledon's show courts

The fourth round match between Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller and Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon on July 10, 2017.
The fourth round match between Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller and Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon on July 10, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Wimbledon defended shunting top women players onto the outside courts on "Manic Monday", saying the big four of men's tennis were the marquee matches demanded by broadcasters and spectators.

Andy Murray and Roger Federer had their matches put on the 15,000-seat Centre Court, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on Court One yesterday, which featured all the men's and women's last-16 matches.

Five-time champion Venus Williams made it to the Centre Court, while British home favourite Johanna Konta was put on Court One, which holds 11,000 spectators. The rest, including world No. 1 Angelique Kerber were put either on Court Two, Court Three or Court 12.

"You've got four of the all-time great male players: Rafa, Roger, Novak and Andy. You're left with some difficult choices," said All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis. "I wouldn't say it's favouritism. It's about which matches are the ones the public and the broadcasters, most of all, would like to see."

Williams said the women players would want more matches on Centre or Court One over the whole fortnight. The veteran suggested starting play on the two main show courts before 1pm to get another women's match on the bill.

However, Lewis ruled the idea out, saying fans travelling from across Britain were already struggling to make the start time.

"It doesn't work for us," he said. "Three matches is a tried and tested formula."

Eighteen-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert called for a discussion on the scheduling.

"It's equal prize money so why not equal representation on Centre Court and Court No. 1?" the 1970s great said.

"Instead of four men's matches and two women's, I would like to see it three and three, and I think any woman would like to see it that way."

Defending the unique Manic Monday format, Lewis said it gave fans with cheaper outside court tickets the chance to see bigger-name players. Some consider it the best day's programme of tennis in the sport's entire annual calendar.

Lewis also stressed that Wimbledon - again, uniquely among the Grand Slams - has stand-alone women's quarter-finals and semi-finals days. "We're very proud of that," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Calls for equality on show courts'. Print Edition | Subscribe