LONDON (Reuters) - Calls to give more prominence to the women’s singles competition at Wimbledon were dismissed by chief executive Richard Lewis on the opening day of the grasscourt major on Monday.
Traditionally the men’s singles champion opens proceedings on Center Court on the first Monday of the tournament and the men’s final is contested on the last day of the two-week event.
In contrast, the women’s title holder plays her first match on Center Court 24 hours after her male counterpart and the contest to decide who wins the Venus Rosewater Dish takes place on the penultimate day of the championships.
With gender equality being a hot topic globally, former champion Chris Evert suggested that Wimbledon could change its schedule to alternate those honors between the men and women.
But Lewis said there was no need to change the championships’ format.
“There is a long history and tradition of the men’s singles champion opening up at one p.m. on Center Court on the Monday and the focus on the ladies’ singles champion starting on the Tuesday. It works very well,” Lewis told a group of reporters on a balcony overlooking Court 14.
“We’ve always been very proud of having standalone quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the ladies singles as we think it gives a great focus on the ladies singles event, and the final on a Saturday works very well.”
There has often been controversy about the split between women’s and men’s matches on the two main showcourts at Wimbledon.
On Monday, five-times Wimbledon champion and last year’s runner-up Venus Williams was contesting her first-round match against Johanna Larsson on Court 2.
In contrast the Big Four in men’s tennis — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — have never been scheduled to play matches outside of Center and Court One once they had held aloft the Challenge Cup.
The last time any of the quartet had to venture on to an outside court was in 2009, when Djokovic played his fourth-round match against Dudi Sela on Court 3 — two years before he won the first of his three titles at the All England Club.
On Monday, two men’s matches were scheduled to take place on Center Court compared to one women’s, with the reverse on Court One.
Lewis said there were no plans to change those plans.
“We’ve always had a policy of putting on the marquee matches on Center and Court One and there’s been no change to that policy.
“People like to see a variety of tennis and not too much of the same thing. The feedback is put the best matches on Center and Court One.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon