Five-time women’s Wimbledon champion Venus Williams took the organizers of the prestigious lawn tennis tournament to task this week over a scheduling change that saw women competitors relegated to playing their matches on a court that’s previously been derided as a “parking lot.” Williams accused Wimbledon officials of sex discrimination after they relocated several matches postponed by inclement weather to Court 18, a far-cry from Centre Court, where the majority of the men’s matches are being played — and where top women’s matches are typically also played. In 2008, former No. 1 player Jelena Jankovic blasted the venue as a “parking lot” due to its distant location from Centre Court.
“I’m not so much into disrespect. I’m willing to play anywhere, any time,” the elder Williams sister said after dispatching her second-round opponent, Maria Sakkari of Greece. “It’s not the ideal schedule for the women. We’d like to see equal amount of matches [on the main tennis courts]. We don’t want more, just the same amount, that’s all,” Williams said, adding, “To make it crystal clear … I just want equality for men’s and women’s matches. That’s what I’m unhappy about.” Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also spoke out against the decision by the All England Club, posting on Twitter that “it stinks” that some women players were relegated to Court 18.
Venus Williams and her sister Serena have tallied a remarkable 11 combined Wimbledon titles over the courses of their illustrious careers, and their influence looms large over the event. This is not the first time Venus Williams has taken up the role of activist to raise awareness of sexism at the hallowed tennis tournament — and bring about change. Nine years ago, Williams was the driving force behind a movement that resulted in Wimbledon updating its prize policy to offer both men’s and women’s players equal money for winning the tournament.
Read the full story at Reuters.