The head of Wimbledon has dismissed accusations of sexism after it emerged the vast majority of the tournament’s prestigious Centre Court slots have been given over to men.
In the opening seven days of play at this year’s competition, 14 matches on Centre Court have been from the men’s singles draw, with just eight coming from the women’s.
The scheduling imbalance has led to criticism of the All England Club, with Chris Evert, a three-time Wimbledon champion, questioning the lack of “equal representation” on the show courts.
The questions over the matches intensified yesterday after it emerged there were four men’s and two women’s ties across Centre Court and Court One, with Grand Slam winners Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza relegated to Court Two.
Evert, a former world number one, took issue with that line-up, explaining: “I think all women would like to see three of each to go along with the equal prize money.”
However, Richard Lewis, the All England Club’s chief executive, insisted the decision placing more men’s matches on the tournament’s high profile courts was simply a reflection of what spectators want to see.
He said: “I wouldn’t say it’s favouritism. I would say it’s taking the marquee matches. 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, Mr 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 Mr 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,” he added. “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.”
It comes as Britain’s tennis stars put to bed a 44-year-old old hoodoo, after Andy Murray and Johanna Konta secured their places in the men’s and women’s quarter finals respectively, equalling a record set by Roger Taylor and Virginia Wade.
Murray’s victory over Frenchman Benoit Paire also meant the world number one became just the third player in the Open era after Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer to reach ten consecutive quarter-finals at a single grand slam.