Everyone loves an underdog – or so the saying used to go. When it comes to Wimbledon at least, low-ranking players who are given a boost by being awarded wildcard places, are increasingly being criticised for earning money for old rope.
Britain’s last remaining wildcard Tara Moore crashed out last night, just hours after the 20-year-old had courted controversy by lashing out at criticism surrounding the thousands of pounds wildcards can earn, despite often bowing out during the early stages of the tournament.
Debutante Moore who is ranked 194th, leapt to the defence of fellow women tennis players on Twitter in a self-confessed “rant” before losing her first match against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.
Responding to a growing swell of debate over the earnings made by British wildcards, especially in the wake of their lacklustre performance in the first round, Ms Moore said people didn’t see what players went through “day in, day out”.
The performance of wildcards has caused much criticism on social media, with some users questioning why players should pocket money for a poor performance – first-round losers get £23,500 at Wimbledon.
One Twitter user, writing as OvalBallBrain, commented several times on Britons Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong’s performances, asking if there were players more “deserving” of a wildcard entry.
“Between Baltacha and Keothavong they won 9 games today. Time to move on LTA”, wrote another user.
But Moore hit back on her own Twitter, saying: “People that are tweeting @ElenaBaltacha and @annekeothavong abuse don’t see what they and all tennis players go through day in day out...
“Try one week in our shoes and you’d see the effort we put into training and not just for the Wimbledon two weeks you guys seem to see...
Baltacha, who was knocked out of the tournament before play had even started on the show courts, is thought to have seen her All England career earnings break through the £150,000 barrier this week. She made her 12th appearance in the ladies’ singles during this tournament – nine of which had been courtesy of a wildcard.
This year she was one of seven Britons to get a singles wildcard.
The All England Club, rebuked for handing out too many wildcards over the years, peaked in 1997 with 14 invites, nine of whom crashed in the first round, with wildcards failing to get past round two since 2005.
Keothavong and Baltacha stayed silent, the former not commenting, and Baltacha only adding a smiley face to a tweet from another user, instructing the critic to “stick to rugby mate”.
Britain’s Heather Watson defended the state of British tennis: “[The state of British tennis] is not too bad. We have got two players in the top 100 [Watson and Laura Robson]. We have got Johanna Konta and Tara Moore coming through the rankings. There is a lot of depth in women’s tennis.”
Wildcards can surprise. In 2001 Goran Ivanisevic famously romped to victory as the only person to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon as a wildcard. In 2012, Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen became the first wildcard to win the men’s doubles.
Rufus – Wimbledon’s scourge of the skies (just don’t show him a hoodie)
He is the scourge of pigeons attempting to roost at the All England Club: from 5am daily, Rufus the hawk clears all in his path. But the steely bird now has his own enemy to contend with – hoodies.
Since he was stolen from his handlers’ car last year, he hasn’t been the same. One of his handlers, Imogen Davis, said his demeanour had changed since he went missing for three days before being found abandoned in his transportation cage on Wimbledon Common.
“He doesn’t like people with hoods – he hates it,” said Ms Davis. “Even my little brother can’t come near him when he’s wearing his helmet. Any other people that you see with hoods up he gets a bit grouchy.”
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