LONDON (AP) — Serena Williams’ recent marriage has shined a spotlight on one of Wimbledon’s many quirky traditions.
Suddenly “Miss Williams” has become “Mrs. Williams” in the words of chair umpires — a small change that has led to bigger-picture questions about whether the All England Club is too old-fashioned.
Only the women at the grass-court Grand Slam are addressed with a title before their names to reflect their marital status.
In other words, when a chair umpire announces that Serena has won a game, it’s, “Game, Mrs. Williams.”
For her sister Venus, it’s, “Game, Miss Williams.”
And for Roger Federer, it’s simply: “Game, Federer.”
It’s a difference that is in contrast to other moves in the name of gender equality in tennis. Since 2007, there is equal prize money for men and women at all Grand Slam tournaments. And over the first three days this week, there were more women’s matches scheduled for Centre Court than men’s — something that decades ago just wouldn’t happen.
However, the players themselves seem rather indifferent — or even unaware — when it comes to how they are addressed.
“They call Serena ‘Mrs. Williams’?” Venus asked after her second-round victory when the subject was raised. “That’s cool. I mean, I remember Janet Jackson had that song and she said, ‘Miss Jackson.’ I like that. I am Miss Williams, so … .”
The “Miss” or “Mrs.” used to be included on scoreboards as well, but that tradition was dropped in 2009.
Federer said he hadn’t realized that the women are addressed differently depending on their marital status. He’s also perfectly fine with chair umpires not using a “Mr.” in front of his and other male players’ names.
“For me, I’m happy if they say whatever they say, as long as it is ‘game’ and my name somewhere, and not ‘game’ and the other name,” Federer said with a laugh Wednesday. “That makes sense, right?”
This is Serena’s first Wimbledon since she married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November. That union has given her a new place in Wimbledon’s official fact book as well — in the list that details the marriages of all past women’s champions, runners-up and semifinalists.
There are no such marriage lists for the men.
“I actually never knew they had that,” Williams said after her second-round victory on Centre Court. “It will be interesting to know why it’s not for both sexes.”
The tournament fact book shows multiple marriages as well — 1923 doubles runner-up Joan Austin had four husbands, for instance — although Williams is confident that will never apply to her.
“Hopefully,” she said, “it will be just one.”