Monday 11 December 2017

Andy Murray calls for more women's games on show courts in Wimbledon sexism row

Andy Murray and (inset) Venus Williams
Andy Murray and (inset) Venus Williams

Tom Allnutt and John Skilbeck

Andy Murray has backed calls from Venus Williams and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for more women's matches to be played on Wimbledon's show courts.

Five-time Wimbledon winner Williams was handed a Centre Court slot for her tussle with Croatian teenager Ana Konjuh and British home favourite Johanna Konta played France's Caroline Garcia on Court One.

But those were the only women's fourth-round matches played on the biggest two courts on 'Magic Monday', and All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said that was down to demand.

"I wouldn't say it's favouritism. I would say it's taking the marquee matches," Lewis said. "It's not about male or female, in the end it's about which matches you feel the public and broadcasters want to see."

In the opening seven days of play, 14 matches on Centre Court have been from the men's singles draw while only eight have come from the women's.

Murray, along with Roger Federer, was on Centre Court for his match against France's Benoit Paire on Monday and the world number one agreed the schedule should be more balanced.

"Obviously I think ideally you would have two men's and two women's on Centre," Murray said.

"If there's better matches on the women's side than the men's side, you can flip it. If there's better matches on the men's side, then that has to go first, as well.

So maybe starting the matches a little bit sooner, a little bit earlier in the day, and splitting them between the men and women. It's not the hardest thing to do."

Wimbledon's second Monday traditionally features every fourth-round match in the men's and women's singles, setting it apart from the other grand slams.

But Centre Court routinely takes two of its three daily matches from the men's draw, leaving some prominent female players feeling overlooked.

"This day is always a tough day," said 37-year-old American Williams. "The scheduling has stayed the same on this day since I've been around.

"I'm sure that the women, we would want more matches on Centre or Court Number One over the whole fortnight."

Asked if play should start earlier than 1pm to accommodate more women's matches inside the largest arenas, Williams added: "It would be something worth considering."

Lewis, however, said bringing forward the start of play "doesn't work for us", citing travelling fans wanting to take advantage of off-peak fares for their journeys.

Twenty-year-old Ostapenko, who won the French Open last month, felt cosy Court 12 was too small for her clash with Elina Svitolina.

"I think I deserve to play on a better court than Court 12," Ostapenko said.

"Elina is number four in the world. I think our match was a very interesting match for the people to watch. They put us on Court 12. It's still good. It has Hawk-Eye. But I thought we would play on a bigger court."

Retired American star Chris Evert, who won Wimbledon three times, told BBC Radio Five Live: "I think there needs to be a discussion because we have equal prize money so why do we not have equal representation on Centre Court and Court One?

Instead of four men's matches and two women's matches, I would like to see, and I think all women would like to see, three men's matches and three women's matches to go along with the equal prize money."

World number one Angelique Kerber, who lost to Serena Williams in last year's final, was handed a Court Two assignment for her clash against 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza.

Kerber, who was beaten in three sets, said: "I was really surprised that I was playing on Court Number Two. I was actually looking forward to playing on one of the two big courts."

There was a noteworthy exception, with surprise quarter-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova saying: "To be honest, I enjoy watching more men's tennis. I just enjoy it more.

"I think also for the spectators it's more enjoyable to watch because it's such a name like Federer, Murray, huge names, and I think they deserve obviously to be on Centre Court and Court One."

Press Association

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