Tim Henman is used to receiving substantial backing from adidas, but if his sponsors have their way the four-times Wimbledon semi-finalist will soon be writing out a cheque to them.
Henman, along with Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Sir Cliff Richard, the Duke of Kent and their 1,000 fellow members of the All England Club, are being sued by adidas in a dispute over the use of the distinctive "three stripes" which the kit manufacturer uses on its sportswear.
In London next month adidas will go to the High Court to challenge a decision by Wimbledon and the French, Australian and US Opens to restrict the size of the three stripes on kit worn by players. Henman, Andre Agassi, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin-Hardenne are among the leading players sponsored by adidas, which is suing the International Tennis Federation, the four Grand Slam tournaments and the individual members of the All England Club.
Tim Phillips, the Wimbledon chairman, is sending out a letter this week to the club's 375 full members and 600-plus associate members informing them that adidas is seeking both an injunction to prevent the new rule being applied at this year's championships and damages incurred as a consequence of the rule. Henman is a Wimbledon member, as are all the men's and women's champions, including his fellow adidas players Hingis and Agassi.
Some other manufacturers have felt that adidas has enjoyed an unfair advantage. At last year's Masters Series tournament in Rome, Nike made a point when one of its players, Rafael Nadal, wore a shirt with a logo - the "swoosh" - many times larger than permitted.
Originally notified of the change in May last year, adidas were eventually given until 26 June this year - the first day of the Wimbledon championships - to comply. However, the company has now decided to go to court.
The company claims that the rule "discriminates against adidas and infringes elementary EU competition rights". The company said the three stripes running down shirt sleeves and shorts were not a standard logo. It said its official logo consisted of three stripes in a pyramid with "adidas" written underneath.
l Andy Murray lost in three sets to the fifth seed David Ferrer at the SEAT Open in Barcelona yesterday. The 18-year-old British No 1 lost 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 to the 24-year-old Spaniard having led 6-5 on his serve in the second set. It is the second time in a week that the Scot has been defeated after winning the first set, following his defeat to Jean-Rene Lisnard at the Monte Carlo Masters.
All England Club singles out women for second-class status
Wimbledon is never afraid to make a stand and the All England Club remained firm yesterday in its belief that its men's champion should be paid more than his female counterpart.
The winners of this year's singles championships will be paid £655,000 and £625,000, an increase of four per cent but with the differential between the sexes preserved. Total prize-money increases by 2.9 per cent to £10,378,710, making Wimbledon the most valuable tournament in tennis.
Wimbledon is now the only Grand Slam tournament offering higher prize-money to its men's champion. The French Open recently announced that its two singles winners would be paid the same, although the total prize-money on offer to men continues to exceed that given to women.
Reaction from the Women's Tennis Association was predictably unfavourable. "In the 21st century, it is morally indefensible that women competitors in a Grand Slam tournament should be receiving considerably less prize-money than their male counterparts," the WTA Tour's chief executive officer Larry Scott said. "Women got the vote in Britain in 1918, and the Sex Discrimination Act has been in force for over 30 years, yet Wimbledon continues to take a Victorian era view."
Tim Phillips, the Wimbledon chairman, pointed out that, at last year's Wimbledon, quarter-finalists in the men's singles, who play the best of five sets, had earned an average of £993 per game compared with £1,432 earned by the last eight women, who play best of three. He also stressed men earn substantially more than women at tour events during the year.
Phillips also gave further details of the rebuilding programme for Centre Court. The east stand and existing roof around the whole court will be demolished after this year's tournament. Although the east stand will be largely rebuilt and reopened within 12 months, there will be no roofnext year, when Wimbledon will no doubt be praying more fervently than ever the weather remains fine. A new fixed roof will be in place by 2008.
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