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Exclusive: "Equal pay is still right for tennis."


In the final part of an exclusive interview with Ian Ritchie, Wimbledon’s outgoing chief executive selects his highlights from his time at the All England Club:

My favourite matches:
“I would select two. The first is the 2008 men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, because of the drama and the theatre. Wimbledon will never have a match like that again, with the rain delays, because the roof will stop it from happening. I don’t think everyone realised quite how dark it was. I remember when we got to the presentation ceremony thinking, ‘crumbs, it really is quite dark’. When you’re just sitting there watching the match, you get attuned to it. There were so many fluctuations during the match, and I was conscious that there were fluctuations in the crowd about who they wanted to win. You talk to people about it, and I think it’s unusual as some will say, ‘I’m a staunch Federer supporter6, but by the time we got to the fourth set I was a Nadal supporter, and then I moved back to Federer again in the fifth set’. The crowd were moving backwards and forwards with the emotions.”
“The second match is Murray’s match under the roof against Stan Wawrinka in 2009. To get that match as the first full match under the roof, a five-set match which finished after 10.30pm, you just think, ‘Wow’. The whole thing was fantastic.” 
The roof:
“This all started in the mid to late 1990s. It happened a bit on my watch, but there had been casts of hundreds and thousands working on it, and planning it. What’s materially different now at Wimbledon than when I arrived? Yes, the roof. Tradition with innovation is a very interesting phrase for Wimbledon. For people at home, and the spectators, is it going to work? Is it going to spoil Wimbledon? Is it going to enhance Wimbledon? I don’t think it’s done anything but enhance it. People like the look of it, and touch wood, it’s worked so far. It hasn’t got stuck.

“I remember people clapping when the roof was closed for the first time. I enjoyed the Centre Court celebration we did in May 2009, when Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters played. The little extra bonus was that Kim had stopped playing and then she started training again after we asked to appear. Then when she came back and won the US Open she said the only reason she was there was because of Wimbledon. She was always delightful about that.

“Will there be regular night sessions? That’s a matter for the future. Fundamentally, the philosophy should be that it’s a daytime, outdoor event. That’s still the case. You could, with the roof, have a later start time for the final. I don’t think there’s a need to change that. The view has always been that it’s an insurance and a protection, it’s not something to be used proactively, to say, ‘let’s have a night session’. There are going to views about that in the future, but that philosophy is going to be important for the club. There’s been no pressure for TV. The roof wasn’t built because of any pressure from the broadcasters. And there wasn’t any thinking of, ‘this is going to make us more money’. I think it’s been good for reputation, and it provides the broadcasters with certainty.”
The introduction of equal prizemoney:
“It was the right thing to do under the circumstances. I can’t see it being changed back. It was right for tennis, it was right for women, and it was right for Wimbledon, and, from where I’ve been sitting, I haven’t see anything which changes that.”
The introduction of Hawk-Eye:
“We weren’t the first here, but we were early adopters. You slightly gauge things by your post-bag, and I think I can safely say that I’ve never had a letter about Hawk-Eye.  No one has ever written to say, ‘I think this is ridiculous’. I can’t remember getting a letter from the roof either. The way that Hawk-Eye has been set up with the limited number of challenges, it’s very clever. I struggle to think of something that we’ve introduced at Wimbledon that hasn’t worked. You have to be careful about what you sign up for as the whole thing depends on reputation. Sometimes in this world, it doesn’t take too much to change that, or to diminish it, or lose it. You can damage it. You have to be careful.”
The All England Club’s role in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals:
“One of the things I was happy about during my tenture was the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. It was pretty much the only time that the club have given such public support, and the logo, and everything else, to an event. That has been successful. The event has been successful, and our support has been successful. People said to me at the start, ‘it’s not Wimbledon’, but it’s not trying to be Wimbledon. It shoudn’t be like Wimbledon. We wouldn’t want it to be a pale limitation. For the growth of tennis, to have such a fantastic event in London, in the middle of winter, that’s been great. To get a quarter of million people coming every year for the last three years, it’s been successful. I hope it continues to be in London. I don’t think you can underplay the significance of building the event, not just in the UK but around the world, as a brand that works. It’s a great event, with the top eight players in the world. I hope recognise that it stays in London.”

Wimbledon remains “a great day out”:
“There’s always that debate, to what extent is Wimbledon a sports event or a social event? How much does Wimbledon punch above its weight? I think there’s work ahead, to look at improving the facilities and site. The reason it’s so successful, I hope and I believe, is that it’s a great day out. I don’t think that people come just because it’s a social day out, because they do sit there and watch the tennis. After watching that fantastic final in Melbourne, you can see that professional tennis is in a good place. The beauty of Wimbledon is that there is a singlemindedness. There’s the philosophy is of a tennis club who puts on a bit of a do in the summer. That’s not accidental. Long may that continue. In this world, you’re not going to be immune to everything. There are always threats of, ‘where does tennis fit? what happens if we don’t keep up?’ I believe that Wimbledon is in a good place and can go from strength to strength.” 
My backhand has improved:
“I certainly haven’t lost any weight since I’ve been here. Whle my backhand has got a bit better, the number of times I get to it, that’s another point.”


  • Anonymous

    Is Equal Pay justifiable? OF COURSE NOT!!!
    There is NO justification for equal pay. If there was, wheelchair users, juniors, senior players SHOULD also get equal pay for the same reasons.
    They do not collect nearly as much advertising revenue, TV viewers, interest of any kind… they do not work nearly as hard, NO NO NO. Personally, there is hardly a women’s match I would bother watching.