SBD/Issue 196/Events & Attractions

Does Physical Attractiveness Factor Into Wimbledon Scheduling?

Did Good Looks Have A Part In No. 28 Seed
Cirstea Playing A Match On Centre Court?
The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) Sunday night admitted that "physical attractiveness is taken into consideration" at Wimbledon when scheduling matches on Centre Court, according to Andrews & Fernandez of the London DAILY MAIL. AELTC spokesperson Johnny Perkins: "Good looks are a factor." While No. 2 seed Serena Williams Friday was "relegated to the new No. 2 Court for her win over" Roberta Vinci, No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka and No. 28 seed Sorana Cirstea were featured on Centre Court, suggesting that "attractive players are placed on Centre to titillate the BBC television audience, some of whom care more for a pretty face than a powerful forehand." Also, No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki Thursday played unseeded Maria Kirilenko on Centre Court, while No. 1 seed Dinara Safina was "downgraded to an outer court." Safina: "Of course it's not fair, but then I'm not doing the schedule." Fifth-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova said of tournament officials featuring lower seeded players on Centre Court over more established players, "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?" A BBC source said, "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. ... Our preference would always be a Brit or a babe as this always delivers high viewing figures." But Andrews & Fernandez noted "many seats remained empty" at Centre Court for the Azarenka-Cirstea match, implying that the crowd was "underwhelmed by the tennis on offer" (London DAILY MAIL, 6/29). In N.Y., Kate Nocera writes Cirstea, Kirilenko and Wozniacki all are "relatively unknown in the tennis world," though all are "smoking hot." Nocera: "No doubt about it, their looks and not their talent have won them prime playing time on Wimbledon's best piece of grass." Wimbledon promoters reportedly described Friday's Azarenka-Cirstea match as "The Battle of the Babes" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30).

BEHIND THE BASELINE: In Sydney, Swanton & Hinds report Perkins "later denied" saying that good looks are a factor in match scheduling. Perkins: "Looks per se are not taken into account." But Perkins "acknowledged 'box office appeal' was one of 28 points considered when courts were allocated." Former Australian Federation Cup captain John Alexander said of considering looks when booking matches, "That is an extraordinary thing to do. ... It is absolutely and totally inappropriate. We are talking about Wimbledon, the holiest place there is in tennis. It is absolutely absurd and I cannot believe it is the case." Alexander added, "I can absolutely swear that at the Australian Open, it has only ever been done on the quality of the tennis" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/30). Perkins said, "We don't look at a player and say she is attractive or he is attractive, therefore they play on the big court. But if a player is deemed to be popular, for whatever reason, they are more likely to be on one of the bigger courts" (PA, 6/29).

CHAUVINISTIC ATTITUDE: Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said, "Shocked chauvinism rears its ugly head. I'm just stunned." ESPN's Michael Wilbon added, "Are the 'Page Three' editors now making the decisions for the Wimbledon play committee?" Ryan: "I really am shocked, though, that anyone would admit a thing like this publicly. I don't know how this ever got out, how they ever came to the point where they would really admit something that is particularly as juicy as this. This is outrageous." Ryan also said, "Since when is Serena not hot?" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/29).

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