Serena and Venus Williams were pushed to their limits on Friday before they both claimed hard-fought victories, on a day that saw several people question scheduling decisions at the All England Club.
Defending champion Serena fought back from 0-2 in the final set to overcome her fellow American world No65 Christina McHale 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4 and book a third round with Germany’s Annika Beck, while five-time winner Venus played the longest final set of her grand slam career to get past No29 seed Daria Kasatkina 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 to reach the fourth round.
The rain meant that while Venus was booking herself a spot in the last 16, someone like No10 seed Petra Kvitova had not even started her second round, courtesy of some messy scheduling.
Kvitova, a two-time champion at Wimbledon, played her first round on Court 18 and on Friday was on Court 2 – her second round with Ekaterina Makarova yet to be completed with five days gone in the tournament.
Three of the women’s second rounds are still underway while just one from the men’s draw is yet to be concluded.
Meanwhile, someone like Roger Federer is already in the fourth round having played all three of his matches on Centre Court, which is the only court with a roof at Wimbledon, that can be shut during the rain.
Many have voiced their concern over the inequality between men and women when it comes to scheduling matches, including Venus, who as a five-time champion, was also scheduled on Court 18 on Thursday.
Asked if he felt guilty about having the advantage of the roof for all three of his matches, Federer said: “I feel it is what it is. I’ve been lucky with the draw. Is it good to play the Brits? I’m not sure. The draw, it is what it is. Credit to myself for maybe winning as much as I did here in previous years that I do get put on either Centre Court or 1.”
Venus was happy to play on Court 18 but believes women should get equal opportunity to play on the main courts compared to the men.
“It’s not the ideal schedule for the women. We’d like to see equal amount of matches. We don’t want more, just the same amount, that’s all,” said the 36-year-old.
“The All England Club has to have a culture where they want to have equality, as well. They need to want to pursue that. I would love to see where we don’t have to talk about this any more in the press conference.”
No4 seed Stan Wawrinka was understandably on Centre Court on Friday (he played Juan Martin del Potro), while No4 seed Angelique Kerber has been scheduled on Court 18 and Court 12 in her last two matches.
Asked if he noticed any sexism in scheduling, Wawrinka said: “That’s a pretty strange question. If you look the schedule, I think yesterday or two days ago, was four matches women on Centre, and one guy or two. I think they just trying what they can do with the schedule.
“They cannot put five or six match on Centre. I think you need to look every day. Today was one girl match, two men’s match. Two days ago was three or four girl’s match and one men’s match. I don’t think there is anything.”
The rarely-outspoken Carla Suarez Navarro echoed Venus’ views.
“I read something like that and I agree. Every player has to play on every court, the tournament try to put different players on different courts and it’s a really important thing what Venus said,” said the Spanish No12 seed.
On court, Serena was tested for a third time on as many surfaces against McHale before she advanced.
“I know mentally no one can break me,” the world No1 said during her TV interview.
She added later in her press conference: “There were times where I was down and out. I just kept fighting. That’s what I know I can do best. I knew that I could count on that, rely on that.”
McHale was understandable disappointed to lose and says she hopes to advance further in the slams in the near future.
Asked if she agreed with Serena, that she is mentally unbreakable, McHale said: “You’re definitely aware of everything she’s accomplished, she’s the greatest of all-time, so you’re aware of that and you know that no lead is ever safe.
“But she does lose matches sometimes, so I don’t think it’s safe to say that she’s unbeatable but when it comes down to it, she’ll take her chances when they come.”
On how she feels she continues to trouble the American world No1, McHale said: “I think, maybe my style of play of getting a lot of balls back, making her hit a lot of balls, putting her in maybe awkward positions, I wasn’t expecting on the grass to be so close and have so many chances but I guess I’ll learn from this and be able to make it farther in the slams soon.”