Sport Andy Murray, Venus Williams receive Wimbledon wildcards
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Andy Murray, Venus Williams receive Wimbledon wildcards

Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has been given a wildcard at this year's Championships. Photo: EPA
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Former champions Andy Murray and Venus Williams have been awarded wildcards for this year’s Wimbledon championships that start in two weeks.

Two-time winner Murray, who played just his third ATP singles match of the year at Queen’s Club on Tuesday, is ranked down at 124, which is outside the cut-off for direct qualification.

Murray will be joined by fellow British players Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Samantha Murray Sharan, Francesca Jones, Liam Broady, Jay Clarke and 19-year-old Jack Draper, who won his maiden ATP Tour match at Queen’s on Monday.

Five-time champion Venus Williams and Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz have also been given wildcards into the main draw.

This year’s tournament begins on Monday, June 28 with prizemoney a little over £35 million ($64 million), a 5.2 per cent reduction from 2019 when the grasscourt grand slam was last held.

Last year’s competition was called off because of COVID-19.

The singles champions will bear the maximum hit to their earnings and will pocket £1.7 million, down from the £2.35 million they were paid in 2019.

“As in previous years, and particularly in this challenging year for tour players, the focus of distribution has been on supporting players in the early rounds of the tournament,” organisers All England Club said in a statement.

“Only four players (finalists and semi-finalists) in each singles draw will receive prizemoney at a lower level than was awarded in 2019.”

Players participating in the qualifiers will see a 17.5 per cent increase in overall prizemoney allocation while the wheelchair and quad wheelchair events will also get a 17 per cent boost.

Organisers also confirmed the men’s and women’s singles finals will be played with full crowds of 15,000 in attendance on Centre Court, making it the first outdoor sporting event in the United Kingdom to have full capacity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Meanwhile, CEO Sally Bolton says the All England Club is expecting Naomi Osaka to compete in the tournament.

“We’ve reached out to her team. We haven’t spoken to Naomi herself,” Bolton said. “At this point in time she’s entered into the Championships and we haven’t received confirmation that she won’t compete.”

Tournament director Jamie Baker added: “I had the conversation with her team. It’s absolutely clear that we’re here. We’re completely open for any discussions when they want to have that.

“Hopefully it goes without saying that we want the best players competing here no matter what.

“We treat every single player with a tremendous amount of care. That’s one of the main reasons for me and my role. We’ve been building those relationships so there’s a constant, ongoing dialogue and we will just continue to behave in this way.”

Osaka pulled out of the French Open citing mental stress after initially copping criticism for refusing to attend press conferences.