London | LTA considering women’s event at Queens, while Wimbledon ticket tout faces jail

Several publications report that the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is proposing to bring women’s tennis back to The Queen’s Club in Barons Court, west London, for the first time since 1973, with a new high-profile event at the beginning of the grass court season.

For over 5 decades The Queen’s Club has been an ATP-only event, with Russia’s Olga Morozova the last female champion to win there in 1973.

The plan is for Queen’s to host a new WTA 500 event as part of the grass season from 2025, the biggest women’s grass event in Britain outside of Wimbledon, with the tournament to be held in the week after the French Open finishes, followed by the men’s event the next week in its usual spot.

It seemingly is unfeasible for a joint men’s and women’s event to be held in the same week as Queen’s is a relatively small club, and does not have a sufficient number of courts or space in its clubhouse to accommodate the number of players that would be on-site.

Apparently, talks are ongoing between the LTA, the WTA and ATP about the potential move, with the main focus being on the potential quality of the grass courts during the ATP event.

The LTA believes it can provide the men’s event with high quality grass courts even if a WTA event precedes it at the venue.

“We’ve got high confidence, and we’ve got significant evidence from the All England Club, as to how grass courts wear over a two-week period,” said Scott Lloyd, the Chief Executive of the LTA. “We’ve analysed all of the data; all of the weather conditions, the density of the soil, you name it, the wear on the ‘T’ [the middle of the service line] and baseline, with the view to try to make sure that we can provide the tours with confidence that the courts will be as good as they always are throughout that period.

“Obviously, at Wimbledon you’ve got 5-set matches, you’ve actually got more play on those courts over the course of the first week.”

If the new event at Queen's goes ahead, the tournament at Eastbourne would be downgraded to a WTA 250.

© Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Three women’s events currently take place in Britain as part of the grass court season ahead of Wimbledon – WTA 250 events in Nottingham and Birmingham, and the WTA 500 event in Eastbourne.

Nottingham is traditionally held in the week that this proposed new event would take place, meaning action at the Nottingham Tennis Centre would probably have to be moved into the following week, taking the place of Birmingham, which is usually held the same week as the men’s event at Queen’s.

Apparently the LTA has no scope for an extra event, meaning one event would be removed from the calendar.

It also means that Eastbourne, currently a WTA 500 and ATP 250, would be downgraded to a WTA 250, which could have significant repercussions for the tournament since the WTA now restricts the number of WTA 250 events that Top 10 players are allowed to compete in.

“The reality of that location [at Eastbourne] is commercially limited to some degree,” continues Lloyd. “We just think that having a WTA 500 in week one of a three-week gap straight after Roland Garros would raise the profile of top-level tennis in that period, straight after the clay-court season.

“Given we invest in that temporary infrastructure for Queen’s each year, the ability to leverage it for a second week, given that we are investing in it in any event, is an opportunity.

“And we think that we will be successful in selling out, and giving the women’s event that level of visibility, which is greater.”

The LTA is also concerned that, in the event of a revamped schedule, the pre-Wimbledon tournament should be held in Britain, and while The Queen’s Club would not be big enough to host the joint 96-draw events being proposed in the Premier Tour, ways of scaling-up ­infrastructure at its other tour events are being assessed.

“It’s not about looking to concentrate our tournaments in London, so to speak,” Lloyd says. “We still absolutely support our other venues throughout that calendar as the way we always have done, and, indeed, as you see us doing with Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, whether it’s Glasgow, Manchester or Coventry. We want to have that geographical diversity.”

Obviously these new proposals are controversial as the new tournament would have an impact on both Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Held at the Edgbaston Priory since 1982, Birmingham was a WTA 500 event just a few years ago, with Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova among the recent champions, but now it risks no longer existing, while Eastbourne, which has consistently attracted the majority of the world’s Top 20 the week before Wimbledon, would be severely depleted in terms of star names.

There are also concerns about the quality of the field that would play at the proposed new event, considering it is to be held directly after the French Open.

Last year only one Top 10 player, Maria Sakkari, played on grass the week after Roland Garros, with most waiting until the WTA 500 events in Berlin or Eastbourne to get matches under their belt.

There is also the transition from clay to grass to be considered, bearing in mind how close the proposed event and the French Open would be.

The AELTC protects its Spectators by diligently pursuing and prosecuting ticket touts over the years

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, a ticket tout that targeted Wimbledon and its fans has been threatened with a jail sentence by a High Court judge, should he fail to disclose his associates.

According to reports, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) took out an injunction against Oliver Hardiman in July last year, in order to combat ticket scalping.

In December, the AELTC asked the High Court to send Hardiman to prison after he breached the order and entered Wimbledon, but Hardiman’s barristers argued that a fine or suspended sentence would suffice.

Last week, Justice Morris said that an immediate prison sentence would be ‘appropriate’ but gave Hardiman a final chance to ‘purge’ his contempt by sharing details of his associates.

Wimbledon’s injunction against Hardiman, which was issued by another High Court judge last year, barred him from unlawfully trading tickets for The Championships, and also banned Hardiman from being within the vicinity of the Club’s premises during the 2023 event.

While the injunction required Hardiman to share details of his associates within 24 hours, he failed to do so, and was also found touting tickets to people queuing for the event.

As reported by the BBC and PA Media, Justice Morris said: “I have given you one final opportunity to think again. You will have until 26 April to provide the information. If you do, then subject to anything the claimants have to say, it is likely you will not be going immediately to prison.

“If you don’t provide the information, you will.”

Additionally, Hardiman was ordered to pay more than £19,000 (€22,000/$24,000) in costs, which he must also pay by 26 April.



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