Things are heating up at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, and it's not just the quality of the tennis or the soaring summer temperature.
Fans and competitors alike have noticed that a string of easy-on-the-eyes female players — less skilled and lower seeded — have been slated to play at Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court, the club's prime piece of grass. Many of the top-seeded female players have been relegated to the peripheral courts.
Wimbledon promoters lured fans to Centre Court on Friday with the so-called "Battle of the Babes" -- No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus against 28th-seeded Romanian beauty Sorana Cirstea.
The same day, second seed Serena Williams, a two-time Wimbledon champion, played her match on the No. 2 court. The American powerhouse got lost on her way there, arriving at her match six minutes late.
Disgruntled tennis fans are suggesting that the decisions are propelled entirely by television ratings for the BBC, which is airing the prestigious tournament — charges the broadcaster reportedly denies.
“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,” a BBC source is quoted as saying to the Daily Mail.
“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,” the BBC source told the newspaper.
And it’s not just the fans who are picking up on the trend.
“It's weird. If you look at the schedule, it's not only about me," said fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, whose own Wimbledon run ended when she was knocked out on Court No. 1. "It's about Dinara on Court Two, Venus (Williams) on Court One. And the girls who are not very highly seeded, they play on Centre."
But event organizers say a long list of 28 factors is considered when determining the play schedule.
“A great big mixture of where the players are in the draw, who they're playing, what their ranking is,” a spokesman for the All England Club told the Daily Mail.
But they admit box office appeal is certainly considered: “It's not a coincidence that those (on Centre Court) are attractive.”