Wimbledon, one of tennis’s Grand Slam tournaments, got underway this week in England. Kate Middleton has already dropped by to watch matches, and the first major upset is in the books as 15-year-old American Cori “Coco” Gauff defeated one of her idols, Venus Williams, on Monday (July 1).
But there’s another substantial talking point at this year’s championships that is making headlines: Umpires will no longer refer to female players as “Miss,” “Ms.,” or “Mrs.” during matches. In the past, when a woman won a game, set, or match, the umpire would announce, for example, “Game, Mrs. [insert name here].” This is different from the men’s matches, during which players are referred to only by their last names. More attention was called to the tradition when Serena Williams was referred to as “Mrs. Williams” after her marriage to Alexis Ohanian, even though she chose to keep her own name (some etiquette books say “Mrs.” is only used with a woman’s maiden name if she is divorced). (Last month the French Open made a similar decision, while the U.S. and Australian Opens make no such gender distinction when addressing players during matches.)
“We’ve got to move with the times,” Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content, and digital for the All England Club, told U.K.’s Telegraph. “Hopefully, we surprise people with the way we do that. Some of the traditions—white clothing, playing on grass—they are our greatest strengths and the things that we do. Others absolutely have to move with the times. You have to respect the wishes of the players. I suppose the challenge for us is: how much you rewrite history.”
The paper reports that players “will be allowed to request that they are referred to as ‘Miss,’ ‘Mrs.,’ ‘Ms.,’ or ‘Mr.’ when there are code violations, medical announcements, and player challenges during a game.”
Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic said he was somewhat surprised by the move. “I thought that tradition was very unique and very special. I thought it was nice,” he said. “It’s definitely not easy to alter or change any traditions here that have been present for many years. It’s quite surprising that they’ve done that.”
Williams has yet to comment on the change, but a British player Heather Watson told the paper, “Equality is good.”