Serena Williams may be a four-time Wimbledon champion. That doesn’t mean she automatically gets to play on the most famous court in tennis.
After opening her title defense two days ago on Centre Court, the 13-time Grand Slam singles champion moved today into the third round with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Romania’s Simona Halep on Court 2, a small show court stuck in a far corner of the Wimbledon complex. It seats about 4,000 people, almost 10,000 fewer than Centre Court.
“They like to put us on Court 2, me and Venus, for whatever reason,” the American said in a news conference, with a member of the host All England Club sitting next to her. “I haven’t figured it out yet.”
Serena’s elder sister Venus, a five-time champion on the London grass courts, had started her Wimbledon campaign with a win on Court 2. She beat Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan in three sets on Centre Court yesterday.
The sisters have dominated Wimbledon since the start of the century, winning nine of the past 11 singles titles. They’ve also won four doubles championships.
“They’re never moved across,” Serena Williams said today. “Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players or by ourselves in doubles even. They’re not going to change, doesn’t look like.”
Johnny Perkins, a spokesman for the All England Club, said in an e-mail that scheduling was “a complex business” and part of creating “a fair and balanced draw from many competing interests and wishes, including the players.”
“There is certainly no intention to favor any player or players and in this instance, I am sure the 4,000 spectators on Court 2 would have been delighted to see our reigning ladies’ champion win,” Perkins said.
In 2008, both sisters were put on the old Court 2, known as the “Graveyard of Champions,” in the second week of the championships. Several high-profile players over the years lost there, including Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Jimmy Connors.
The old Court 2 was located near the players’ restaurant, where thousands of spectators used to pass by on their way to one of the outside courts. Competitors there could hear noise from the canteen as well as the sound of people walking by.
The new Court 2 has been moved away to a quieter corner of the club, further away from the restaurant. It’s built adjacent to Church Road, where cars, buses and spectators on their way to the main entrance frequently pass by.
Stacey Allaster, the head of the women’s tour, questioned the All England Club’s judgment.
“Serena Williams is a four-time Wimbledon singles champion, the defending champion of Wimbledon and a 13-time Grand Slam singles champion,” Allaster said in a statement. “I share her disappointment. Scheduling decisions at Wimbledon are made by the All England Club and only they would be able to explain the rationale behind their decision for the scheduling of Serena’s match today.”
There is one benefit to playing on Court 2, Serena Williams said.
“I never have too much time to warm up,” she said. “I look at that as kind of a warm-up, trying to walk out there. I’m like, OK, well, this gets my legs moving.”
Williams, who returned to tennis last week after almost a year away because of injury and illness, said she was trying not to make “a big issue” out of court assignment.
“At some point maybe I should,” she said. “I just really try to focus on not going down on Court 2. At least now they have a review (system) out there, so I do like that. It was much better than the old one that was actually closer. I really hated that court.”
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