Wimbledon to drop 'Miss' and 'Mrs' on female honours boards

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A general view of centre court during the Ladies' Singles First Round match between Sloane Stephens of The United States and Petra Kvitova of The Czech Republic during Day One of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2021 in London, England - Getty Images
A general view of centre court during the Ladies' Singles First Round match between Sloane Stephens of The United States and Petra Kvitova of The Czech Republic during Day One of The Championships - Wimbledon 2021 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2021 in London, England - Getty Images

Wimbledon is erasing "Miss" and "Mrs" in a modernisation of its honours boards for female winners as part of the latest equality drive at the All England Club.

New boards will be installed by the start of the tournament next month, three years after the titles were also dropped by umpires calling out scores during matches.

Sally Bolton, the first female chief executive of the club since its formation in 1868, has overseen a number of small tweaks to bridge the gender divide. Wimbledon had been the slowest of the four tennis grand slams to hand out equal prize money but she also moved last year to give male and female players the same towels for the first time.

She also quietly introduced a 50/50 split on the “show courts” of Centre and No 1 even before Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, became the main ticket attraction for British fans.

All honours boards around the famous grounds are now set to change, including the most visible one in the clubhouse. Traditionally, the boards have carried the initial and surname of the men's winner, but the women’s winner had her title included too. Last year’s winner Ashleigh Barty was on the board as Miss A Barty, while Novak Djokovic was N Djokovic.

Ashleigh Barty holds the trophy after winning her final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova
Ashleigh Barty holds the trophy after winning her final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova

The practice of giving married women winners the initials and surnames of their husbands is also being changed. When Chris Evert won her second title in 1981, her singles title was recorded as Mrs J M Lloyd due her marriage to John Lloyd. The new board will be altered to C Evert Lloyd for the 1981 entry. Billie-Jean King’s titles will also be changed. No married women have won singles titles in recent years.

However, in attempting to strike a balance around its modernisations, Wimbledon will continue to refer to the "Gentlemen’s" and "Ladies’" draw, rather than men's and women's.

Djokovic, from Serbia, was one of those who expressed surprise in 2019 after Wimbledon dropped the practice of umpires referring to female players with their titles.  “I thought that tradition was very unique and very special; I thought it was nice,” he said then. “It’s definitely not easy to alter or change any traditions here that have been present for many years. It’s quite surprising that they’ve done that.”

A Wimbledon source confirmed the boards were changing, following a report in The Times newspaper. The insider added the use of titles had become an "anachronism".

The new boards are going up as the tournament finds itself engulfed in controversy, having been stripped of ranking points due to elite player pressure over the tournament's ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Ms Bolton and chairman Ian Hewitt are due in Paris on Friday to attend the French Open where they will inevitably face talks over the row that has divided the locker room, the Grand Slams and the sport as a whole. Last week the women's and men's tours took the decision, with the backing of its player councils, to take away ranking points. However, the ATP's influential Players' Council is said to be now open to watering down their position.

On Wednesday two-time champion Sir Andy Murray weighed in on the saga, and countered Naomi Osaka and others' suggestions they may skip Wimbledon as it had effectively been downgraded to an "exhibition" event.

"I’d hazard a guess that most people watching on Centre Court Wimbledon in a few weeks time wouldn’t know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a third round match," Murray, who is an AELTC member, said in a Twitter post. "But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition. The end."

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