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Archived: Serena Williams' Wimbledon Victory Highlights Tennis' Archaic Traditions

Serena Williams married Alexis Ohanian almost a year ago, but she hasn’t publicly taken his last name. That didn’t stop the chair umpires at Wimbledon from addressing her as “Mrs. Williams” to reflect her marital status, even though she told the New York Times she isn’t sure what she wants to be called yet.


With an astounding 23 title wins under her belt, Wimbledon still defines Williams by her marital status. It raises the question that a woman’s worth, despite her accomplishments, is tied directly to her spouse and is more relevant than what she has done. Women, who aren’t married, are addressed as “Miss,” and Wimbledon has never used the neutral term “Ms,” which allows women to be addressed formally without identifying them by their marital status.

It’s no surprise that their male counterparts have no such issues. Men, regardless of whether they’re married, are always referred to by last name only. But that’s not all— The Wimbledon Compendium lists male-female marriages of all women who have reached the semifinals or finals, but doesn’t do the same for men. (The Compendium also doesn’t list same-sex marriages.)

Female players don’t have a choice in the matter. They don’t get to choose how they referred to.

This shines the light on gender inequality in the game. When the New York Times asked about this practice, Wimbledon didn’t give an explanation, but instead pointed its archaic finger back to the Women’s Tennis Association.

Adrian Wilson, the Wimbledon chief of officials, said the marital statuses of female players come from the Women’s Tennis Association and are put into the central tournament database, which displays on the tablet screens used by chair umpires.

It is obvious that Wimbledon has not treated women fairly over the years and forcing women to take on titles they may or not choose is a perfect example of what happens in male-dominated spaces. This would be the perfect time to reassess this practice and make it right. Female athletes have made extraordinary strides on their own and they didn’t have to be tied to anyone else to do it.

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