Centre Court snub angers Serena

Defending champion hints at conspiracy as Williams sisters are shunted to No 2 Court while elite men stay put

Serena Williams suggested here yesterday that there was a conspiracy to keep herself and her sister Venus off the two main show courts. The defending champion made her comments after defeating Romania's Simona Halep on No 2 Court, where Venus played her first match on Monday.

The sisters have won Wimbledon in nine of the last 11 years and Serena said she did not understand why they had to play on No 2 Court when the leading male players are rarely scheduled anywhere other then Centre or No 1 Court. Twelve months ago Serena complained when her match against Anna Chakvetadze was put on No 2 Court on the day the Queen visited Wimbledon and watched on Centre Court.

"They like to put us on Court 2, me and Venus, for whatever reason," Serena said. "I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe one day we'll figure it out."

When asked about the treatment of the leading men, Serena said: "They're never moved across. Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players. It doesn't look like they're going to change." She added: "I don't make it a big issue. I think at some point maybe I should."

A spokesman for the All England Club said: "Match scheduling at Wimbledon is a complex business and involves the referee and his experienced team in trying to achieve a fair and balanced draw from many competing interests and wishes, including the players. There is certainly no intention to favour any player or players and in this instance I am sure the 4,000 spectators on No 2 Court would have been delighted to see our reigning ladies' champion win."

Yesterday's order of play appeared to offer some support for Serena's argument about the leading men. Roger Federer's match against Adrian Mannarino was scheduled on Centre Court despite the fact the French No 7 was never likely to offer much of a threat to the six-times champion, who won in straight sets. It would be hard to imagine Federer or Rafael Nadal playing on No 2 Court this year.

Rain again disrupted play yesterday and many spectators were disappointed the matches featuring Laura Robson and Elena Baltacha never started. Both Britons were scheduled as final matches on a day when rain was predicted. Robson's match against Maria Sharapova was arguably the match of the day, but it was scheduled for No 1 Court rather than Centre Court, which has the roof.

The referee tries to ensure matches in the same part of the draw are played at similar times, in order not to give one player an advantage over a future opponent. Eyebrows will be raised again with today's order of play. While Robson and Sharapova are on No 1 Court, Victoria Azarenka and Daniela Hantuchova are given Centre Court billing. Andy Roddick, who plays Feliciano Lopez, is also on Centre Court again, while Nadal against the big-serving Gilles Muller will be on Court 1.

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