Wimbledon is facing calls by top tennis players to shake up its “sexist” scheduling that sees female champions relegated to smaller outside courts in favour of the male greats.
In the first week of play, fourteen Centre Court matches have been men’s compared to just eight women’s.
German Angelique Kerber, female top seed and world number one, lost to 2015 finalist Garbine Maguruza on Court 2, where she was understandably “really surprised” to be playing given that no male top seed has played outside of Centre Court and Court One this century.
“I think we both played a good match which was at a very high level and I was actually really looking forward to playing on one of the two big courts,” she said, according to The Independent. “I mean, what can I say? This is the schedule and it is not my decision at the end of the day. It is a decision made by others. I have to take the court I get scheduled on but of course I was surprised.”
Andy Murray, men’s world number one, acknowledged there was a problem when was asked to respond to the scheduling furore.
“I don’t think anyone’s suggesting it’s fair. I’m not suggesting that it is,” he said. “We need to find a way of allowing for an equal split of the men’s and women’s matches across the tournament rather than just looking at one day.
“If there are better matches on the women’s side than the men’s side, you can flip it. If there are better matches on the men’s side, then that has to go first, as well.”
Murray went on to suggest that four matches be played on each show court instead of the current three, so that there could be two men’s games and two women’s games each day.
But Richard Lewis, CEO of the All England Club, has dismissed the idea, claiming that crowds would “struggle” to get inside the show courts in time for an earlier start because they “want to use off-peak fares”. (That is the worst excuse we have heard in a long time.)
He insists that the scheduling is not biased, but informed by demand. “I would not say it was favouritism, I would say it is taking the marquee matches,” he said. “It is not about male or female. In the end it is about which matches you feel the public and broadcasters most want to see.”
Murray has described himself as a feminist stood up for his female peers before, most memorably when BBC presenter John Inverdale congratulated him for being the “first person to win two gold medals” for tennis.
“Well, to defend the singles title,” he replied. “Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each.”