Wimbledon Start Sees Empty Seats, Drawing Criticism Of Corporate Sponsors
The All England Club yesterday was "forced to defend its ticketing policy" after defending champion Serena Williams came out on Centre Court for her opening match "to swaths of unoccupied seats," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. If the match had not "overlapped with some long corporate lunches," Williams "might have played in front of a full house." Heather Watson "found it similarly difficult to muster the crowds to No 2 Court" in her defeat by Madison Keys. As an "unofficial watch was put on the empty seats, it was noted that the Centre Court was sparsely filled" for the David Ferrer-Martin Alund match. It was the "second successive day that the large numbers of empty seats had attracted attention." Even Roger Federer began the tournament "in front of a less than capacity crowd on Centre Court." Criticisms of corporate sponsors' ticket use "echoed the contoversy that marred the start" of the '12 London Olympics. Organizers said that an "estimated 8,000 tickets were sold on Monday morning before the queue closed at 7:45am -- the earliest time in the tournament's history" (LONDON TIMES, 6/26). In London, Jonathan Liew notes the All England Club "points out that corporate tickets are limited as far as possible." Public sales for Centre Court "account for 53 per cent of tickets, debenture holders 17 per cent and hospitality nine per cent, with the rest distributed among schools, players, officials, media and the Royal Box." That "points to the established resale system, by which spectators leaving the grounds put their used tickets in red boxes by the exit." Those seats are then sold for $7.70, with "proceeds going to charity." It is a "nice system, and almost unique among major sporting events." But it "does not account for those who arrive late, or fail to show" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/26).
SLIPPERY EVEN WHEN NOT WET: The slippery status of Wimbledon's grass courts has become an issue, as No. 2 women seed Victoria Azarenka was forced to withdraw prior to her second-round match today after falling in the first round and several other players have slipped in their matches. Azarenka today said that she was discussing the court condition with a supervisor and noted that "maybe there would be something to look into, that so many players got injured.” Azarenka added that players “cannot blame a court, cannot blame the weather, but there could be something” done to prevent injuries. ESPN's Patrick McEnroe said while everybody "loves the way it looks" on the opening day of the tournament, Wimbledon officials moving forward are "going to have to seriously consider having a little bit more play in the week leading up" to the start of the event. ESPN’s Mary Joe Fernandez said that “perhaps there is something that can be done” to fix the courts, including changing the fact that Centre Court and Court One get "no play on (them) until the Championships." Fernandez: "You have to start getting someone to practice on it.” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Pam Shriver said, “I want to know what the shoe manufacturers are doing to test the grass court shoes as grass courts are changing and maybe the surfaces under the grass are being rolled more.” ESPN’s Brad Gilbert read a tweet from former tennis player Kim Clijsters about the All-England Club and said, “A few years ago they made a new rule about the position and the length of the studs on the shoes to protect the pristine grass.” ESPN’s Mike Tirico, on shoe regulations at Wimbledon: “There are very specific rules. We could bore you with diameter and pimple density here for a minute but needless to say, they are very careful about what exactly you can wear. But whatever people are wearing, it’s not working" ("Wimbledon," ESPN2, 6/26).