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New mum Victoria Azarenka critical of Wimbledon scheduling amid allegations of sexism

Victoria Azarenka.jpg

Life isn’t plain sailing when you’re a former world No 1 tennis player playing your first grand slam event since giving birth.

And the complicated scheduling situation at Wimbledon doesn’t help.

Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka has admitted she found it difficult to spend the whole day away from her six-month-old son Leo earlier this week, as she waited for a court to become free at the All England Club.

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

“I had to be here the whole day, which is, for a new mom, is a little tough,” Azarenka said, after defeating American CiCi Bellis in a match that lasted until 9pm. “Hopefully I won't play like this again.” 

The comments from Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, come amid rumours of biased scheduling at Wimbledon, the Telegraph reports.

“There have already been mutterings this week about what some regard as the ‘sexist’ scheduling of the women’s matches at Wimbledon, with claims that the men are more frequently allocated the favoured show courts,” the paper says.

It quotes analysis by tennis fan and sci-fi author Mark Leyland,which shows that more male players have been placed on the “show courts” Centre and No. 1 during the last two championships at Wimbledon; unlike other Grand Slam tournaments.

Read more: A positive pregnancy test isn’t always a dream come true – just ask Serena Williams

“Tennis is one of the few sports where women get equal prize money and should, ideally, get equal prominence,” Leyland told the Telegraph. “For Wimbledon, still the biggest tournament in the world, to neglect the women’s tournament, whether it be the broadcaster or the organisers, is to go against that.”

A Wimbledon spokesperson said scheduling was complex and merely depended on “the way the draw falls”.

World No. 1 Serena Williams, who is expecting her first child this autumn

World No. 1 Serena Williams, who is expecting her first child this autumn

In 2011, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams complained that she and her sister Venus Williams were being downgraded to smaller courts in favour of leading male players.

 “They like to put us on Court 2, me and Venus, for whatever reason,” she said. “I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe one day we’ll figure it out. Actually, Venus and I have won more Wimbledons together than a lot of the players, or by ourselves in doubles even. So, you know, I don’t know.”

The world No. 1 is due to give birth to her first child this autumn, in a development that will ramp up pressure on Wimbledon organisers to be more child-friendly, and create an environment that is supportive of young mums.

Read more: Foul Play – why is there sexism in sport?

Azarenka has already spoken to Williams about the challenges of returning to play at the highest level after giving birth.

“The guys have the luxury to never stop their career and for girls it's tougher,” she noted. “One of my biggest inspirations was Kerri Walsh that came back after three kids and still playing for a gold medal. Nothing is impossible. For women, that's definitely true.”

There is a creche for the players’ children at the All England Club, but Azarenka said this week that the delay in her match meant she did not want to keep Leo there.

“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 said.

Images: Rex


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