Wimbledon 2017: Victoria Azarenka critical of scheduling amid claims tournament is biased towards men

Azarenka, who is playing at her first grand slam event since giving birth in December, complained amid a growing row sexual discrimination row

Luke Brown
Tuesday 04 July 2017 14:22 BST
Azarenka has only just returned to tennis after giving birth in December
Azarenka has only just returned to tennis after giving birth in December (Getty)

The former World No 1 and new mother Victoria Azarenka has complained about Wimbledon’s “tough” scheduling, as The Championships once again came under fire for a perceived gender bias in favour of male players.

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2011 and 2012, was unhappy that she had to spend the majority of the day waiting at the All England Club before she was assigned a court.

Her match was not scheduled until late into the first day of the tournament, which meant that she was away from her young son for the entirety of the opening day.

“I had to be here the whole day, which is, for a new mom, is a little tough. Hopefully I won't play like this again,” Azarenka commented after her 3-6 6-2 6-1 first round victory over the American CiCi Bellis.

Azarenka was one of four players whose match was not initially scheduled in Monday's order of play.

She was eventually told she would be playing on No 1 Court late into the day, with her match not getting underway until 7.13pm.

Azarenka's match against Bellis lasted until 9pm
Azarenka's match against Bellis lasted until 9pm (Getty)

Bellis won the opening set before Azarenka fought back to win in three, in a long match lasting an hour and 45 minutes. It meant that Azarenka left court a fraction before 9pm, before she was then expected to carry out her media duties.

Her press conference did not begin until 9.57pm.

“As I said, it's tough to know what time I was going to play, and this is way past his bedtime. So I wouldn't do that to him,” she added.

“You know, it is what it is. I just tried to, you know, stay focused pretty much all day, but it's okay.”

Azarenka’s comments come after Wimbledon was earlier criticised over perceived sexual discrimination on the tournament's top two showcourts.

Tennis fan Dr Mark Leyland conducted an analysis of matches scheduled on Centre and No 1 Courts over the 2016 and 2015 Championships, which he claimed demonstrated a gender bias in favour of male players.

Leyland said Wimbledon operated a '4:2' formula, sticking to two men's matches and just one women's match on the All England Club's most prestigious courts.

“None of the other grand slam tournaments do this,” he told the Guardian.

Wimbledon has been accused of favouring male players
Wimbledon has been accused of favouring male players (Getty)

A Wimbledon spokesperson commented that scheduling was a “complex operation and there will inevitably be variations from year to year depending on the way the draw falls”.

Wimbledon has previously been criticised for favouring male players, perhaps most memorably in 2011 when Serena Williams reacted with disappointment after she was told she would be playing on Court No 2.

“They like to put us on Court Two, me and Venus, for whatever reason,” Williams said at the time. “I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe one day we'll figure it out.”

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