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Wimbledon has finally ditched this sexist tradition, and it’s about time

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Lauren Geall
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Serena Williams Wimbledon

The change marks another step forward for Wimbledon’s gender equality – but there’s still more to be done.      

If there’s one thing that makes Wimbledon Wimbledon, it’s the traditions. The contrast of the crisp green grass against the white outfits, the militarily precise ball girls and boys and the heaps of strawberries and cream are all part of what makes Wimbledon such a treat.

But Wimbledon also has a few traditions which don’t sit so well with us (and society) nowadays. That’s why – in a big step forward for gender equality – the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), who are in charge of the championships at Wimbledon, have ruled that female players can no longer be referred to by their marital status by umpires when they win matches. 

The move will means that female players will now only be addressed by their last name when they win matches rather than also being referred to as “Miss” or “Mrs” – a privilege previously only given to male players. 

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Talking to the Telegraph, Alexandra Willis, who is head of communications, content and digital for the AELTC, said the move was the club’s attempt “to move with the times”.

“Some of the traditions — white clothing, playing on grass — they are our greatest strengths and the things that we do. Others absolutely have to move with the times,” she continued.

“Hopefully we surprise people with the way we do that.”

Wimbledon aerial view
The AELTC, who manage Wimbledon, say their latest move is an attempt “to move with the times”. 

The move marks another step in the club’s attempt to establish equality between male and female tennis players at Wimbledon. In 2007, the competition became the last of all the Grand Slam events to award equal prize money for both male and female players.

And in 2009, the club made the decision to remove the titles “Miss” and “Mrs” from the tournaments scoreboards, because the equivalent “Mr” had never been used to refer to the men. 

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However, as always, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done – and with it, a lot of traditions that need to be overturned.

Take the club’s infamous rule for women in the Wimbledon Compendium, for example. Bizarrely, all women who reach the semifinals or finals at Wimbledon are required to have their “marriage history” – their husband’s name, wedding date and location - logged in the compendium, which holds a glossary of the tournament’s history. As you can expect, no similar records are held for the men who reach these stages of the competition.

And despite the good news from this year’s tournament, women will still be referred to as “Miss” and “Mrs” on the champion’s boards – a sign that there’s still a way to go to achieve equality at all stages of the competition.

Angelique Kerber holding Wimbledon tropy
Angelique Kerber after her win at Wimbledon in 2018 - women who reach this stage are required to enter their marriage details into the Wimbledon Compendium.

But all things considered, the traditional tournament has come a long way. Last year, history was made at Wimbledon as more women’s matches were scheduled on the tournament’s show courts than men’s – showing that women’s tennis continues to grow in popularity.

And with the buzz around the tournament’s breakthrough star Coco Gauff continuing to grow, it seems that momentum shows no sign of stopping. 

Images: Getty

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