Serena Williams played on Wimbledon's third-largest court on Thursday and wasn't happy about it. After her three-set victory over Simona Halep, the four-time tournament champion complained about the banishment to reporters:
"They like to put us on Court 2, me and Venus, for whatever reason. I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe one day we'll figure it out. But obviously they're not gonna change. [The men's defending champions] are never moved across. Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players, or by ourselves in doubles even. Like I said, they're not going to change, doesn't look like."
Serena and Venus have long complained about Wimbledon's court assignments and for good reason. Ever since Pete Sampras lost to George Bastel on Court 2 in 2002, the top men in the game have rarely been off the two main show courts at the All England Club while women are routinely sent to the lesser venues. Roger Federer last played outside Centre Court and Court 1 in 2003, while hometown favorite Andy Murray has played 12 of his 14 matches in the past three years on Centre Court.
Conversely, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki and both Williams sisters have played on Court 2 in the past two years, a necessity because there are only two women's matches per day on the show courts during the first week. In 2008, No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic played her second round match on Court 18 and famously said she needed a helicopter to get there. A match between Venus and Sharapova in 2007 was moved from Centre Court to Court 3 because of a booked schedule. And this week, Sharapova had a TBA match, meaning she wasn't scheduled on a court until it became clear which one would be free for a late afternoon tilt. She eventually played on Centre Court, but still, would that ever happen to a former men's champion who was favored to win this year's event?
Serena's comments were thinly veiled; clearly she thinks there's an ulterior motive involved in the scheduling. Feel free to jump to your own conclusions about what she meant. In my mind, all the possibilities, save one, can be easily disproved:
It's not anti-American sentiment, or else Roddick would complain about scheduling. (He has played on Court 2 recently though.) It's not a racial thing; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played on Court 1 instead of Serena on Thursday. And it has nothing to do with looks, as was whispered about years ago. Martina Navratilova shot down that rumor in 2009 when she said "If that were the case, Ana Ivanovic would play every match on Centre and she didn't."
More than likely, it's a combination of the aforementioned gender bias and two things far more prevalent at the All England Club: snobbery and obsitance. On the day in 2008 when Jankovic was banished to Court 18 and Serena and Venus played on court 2, the featured women's match on Centre Court was Svetlana Kuznetsova versus Agnieszka Radwanska. What sense did that make?
There's an old joke about why a dog can lick itself. Change it around to "why does the All England Club schedule so strangely?"
Because it can.
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