Venus Williams made an impassioned cry for equality to Wimbledon organisers after the five-time champion was sent to play on tiny Court 18 in the second round.
The smallest show court at the All England Club was packed out to see Williams beat 20-year-old Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 7-5 4-6 6-3, and she will face Russian Darya Kasatkina in the last 32.
Martina Navratilova offered a scathing verdict on the scheduling, saying “it stinks”, and Williams suggested it would only be justifiable if the highest-profile men were also occasionally moved to the smaller courts.
The likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer are unlikely to feature anywhere but Centre Court or Court One during the championships. Williams, 36, kept a lid on her anger, instead articulating an argument that looked watertight.
“I’m willing to play anywhere, any time,” Williams said. “I think if players have to play outside (on the outside courts), all players should have to play outside. There shouldn’t be exceptions or any inequality to it.”
Asked to clarify if that meant both men and women, Williams said: “Exactly, both men and women. I don’t mind where I play. It’s just as long as everyone plays on the outside courts. It’s not the ideal schedule for the women. We’d like to see equal amount of matches (on the major show courts). We don’t want more, just the same amount, that’s all.”
A backlog of matches caused by the wet weather meant yesterday was busier than usual, with several first-round matches having been incomplete at the start of play.
That was cited by Tim Henman as a factor in the locating of Williams. Henman sits on the Wimbledon order of play committee. Henman said: “It’s great, it’s a show court - the court’s the same size isn’t it, and if she wins two sets I’m sure she won’t complain.”
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