Placing more men’s matches on show courts is not favouritism – Wimbledon chief

July 10 2017, 1.57pmUpdated: July 10 2017, 3.43pm
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Wimbledon chief Richard Lewis insists placing more men’s matches on the tournament’s show courts is not favouritism but simply reflects what spectators want to see.

With all the tournament’s fourth-round matches taking place on Monday, Centre Court and Court One were both stacked with male players as has been customary at SW19 so far.

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.

The bias on Court One, Wimbledon’s second show court, is less pronounced, with 12 male ties to 10 female so far, but Monday’s scheduling there again came out two-to-one for the men.

Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Venus Williams were handed Centre Court for the last 16 while Johanna Konta, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were put on Court One.

World number one Angelique Kerber’s battle with French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was among the female matches to be overlooked, instead relegated to Court Two.

“I wouldn’t say it’s favouritism. I would say it’s taking the marquee matches,” All England Club chief executive 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.”

Asked if female players could only gain greater popularity with more exposure, Lewis pointed to the last three women’s rounds, which will have days without men’s singles matches on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The other three grand slam tournaments routinely put four, or even five, daily matches on their show courts but Lewis said Wimbledon crowds would struggle to make an earlier start.

“We view these things from time to time. It doesn’t work for us,” Lewis said.

“Whether it will work in the future at any stage I’m not sure. The start time of 1pm, already you see fans struggling to get into Court One and Centre and that’s not just corporate hospitality.

“People travel from long and large distances and they want to use off-peak fares.

“Getting to the stadiums is a challenge so three matches on Centre and One works for us. It’s a tried and tested formula.”

Lewis also offered a staunch defence of the condition of the grass courts at Wimbledon after several players criticised the surface as not up to scratch.

“We’re 100 per cent confident in the courts and all the metrics and measurements taken show the courts are as good as ever,” Lewis said.

“I had a look at Centre yesterday and it was as good as I’ve ever seen it to be honest – a lot of grass and it looked fantastic.

“The reports we’re getting back from the groundstaff and independent measurements we’ve taken are that they’re coming through as good as they have ever been.”

The courts were given a day off on middle Sunday, when no matches took place, but Lewis said “nothing out of the ordinary” had been done to improve their condition.

“We respect the players’ views. In the heat of battle and the tournament they will have their views,” Lewis added.

“But we can only go by what we go by every year which is the groundstaff. They have won awards over the years, there’s a reason for that and we’re very confident about what they do and how the courts are shaping up.”

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