Michael Stich might have been on to something when he said that female tennis players are "just there to sell sex." Sunday evening, the All England Club admitted that physical attractiveness is taken into consideration when deciding which women will play on Wimbledon's Centre Court.
Spokesman Johnny Perkins said, "Good looks are a factor," adding, "It's not a coincidence that those (on Centre Court) are attractive."
Many of tennis' top female seeds have been relegated to lesser courts, while a string of easy-on-the-eyes unknowns have been appearing on Wimbledon's prime time court. On Friday, for example, second seed Serena Williams' match against Italy's Roberta Vinci was held on the new No. 2 court, while 8th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus went up against Romania's Sorana Cirstea (28th seed) on Centre Court. In this case, it's obvious that looks, rather than actual talent played a role in their placement.
The sparse crowds for the Azarenka vs. Cirstea match, however, are telling. It's pretty clear that the crowds attending the matches are far more knowledgable about the sport and it's players than are the BBC television audiences that they're designing the match-ups for.
A BBC source commented:
'It's the Wimbledon play committee, not us who decides on the order of play. But obviously it's advantageous to us if there are good-looking women players on Centre Court.
No one has heard of many of the women now, so if they are pretty it definitely gives them an edge. Our preference would always be a Brit or a babe as this always delivers high viewing figures."
Further evidence that the good looking players are being promoted to Centre Court over more talented, yet not as good looking players are demoted to the outer courts is evidenced. Centre Court featured on Wednesday the so called "Battle of the Babes", with unseeded Gisela Dulko (world rank 45) up against unseeded Maria Sharapova (world rank 60). And then on Thursday it was 9th seed Caroline Wozniacki against Maria Kirilenko (world rank 59) on Centre Court, while number one seed Dinara Safina was downgraded to an outer court.
Not everyone is pleased with the way the schedule is being done. Safina, 23, said "I mean of course it's not fair, but then I'm not doing the schedule."
French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, 24, is also upset by the scheduling, She commented:
'It's weird. If you look at the schedule, it's not only about me.
'It's about Dinara on Court No 2, Venus (Williams) on Court No 1 and the girls who are not very highly seeded they play on Centre.
'I respect them. They're great players for sure. But this is what's weird for me; what's their strategy, what's their plan of making the schedule?
'This is what surprises me a little bit.'
Serena Williams, who is used to being the center of attention and one of the sport's top players, even got lost on her way to finding the No. 2 court Friday. She was 10 minutes late for her match.
This would never happen with the men, where the top players - no matter how good looking or ugly they are - will always play on Centre Court.