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Wimbledon chief rejects sexist scheduling claims


By Luke Brown

Wimbledon faced yet more accusations of sexist scheduling yesterday as stars at the very top of the women's and men's sport once again turned on the All England Club.

Top seed and World No.1 Angelique Kerber sensationally crashed out at the hands of 2015 finalist Garbine Muguruza but did so in front of a modest crowd on No.2 Court, as tournament organisers appeared to favour male players on the showcourts.

"I was really surprised that I was playing on No.2 Court," said two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber after a three-set defeat to Muguruza - her second successive match away from the spotlight. "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."

It appears the German's concerns hold some weight. 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. And no male top seed has played outside Centre and Court One this century.

Her thoughts were echoed by the men's World No.1, Andy Murray, who acknowledged that the scheduling was weighted in favour of male players.

"I don't think anyone's suggesting (the scheduling) is fair," he said after his straight sets win over Benoit Paire on Centre Court. "We need to find a way of allowing for an equal split of men's and women's matches across the tournament.

"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."

Jelena Ostapenko, who beat Elena Svitolina after being relegated to Court 12, was another to express her surprise at being scheduled to play on one of Wimbledon's smaller courts. Exactly one month ago, the 20-year-old was playing in the French Open final in front of 14,840 spectators on Court Philippe Chatrier. Yesterday, she ground out a 6-3 7-6 (6) win against Svitolina in front of little over one thousand.

"I think I deserve to play on a better court than No.12 Court," Ostapenko said. "Elina is the World No.4 so I think our match was a very interesting match."

Caroline Wozniacki, who criticised the scheduling earlier in the week, added to the criticism by claiming Wimbledon was the least equal of the four Grand Slams.

"I think the other Grand Slams are more equal, whereas here there's always two men's and one women's on Centre Court. Most days, as well, there's more men's matches on Court 1, too," she said after her defeat to Coco Vandeweghe on No.3 Court.

But Richard Lewis, the chief executive of All England Club, yesterday insisted that the scheduling was not bias in favour of male players. Instead, he said, scheduling decisions simply reflected what the spectators want to see.

"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 suggested after his win that Wimbledon should look at staging more than three matches a day on the showcourts. But Lewis said crowds would struggle to make the earlier start.

"We view these things from time to time. It doesn't work for us," he added. "Whether it will work in the future I'm not sure."

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