Tennis

French Open sexism storm explodes as female star unloads on tennis bosses

Victoria Azarenka criticised French Open organisers over what she described as a lack of equality, suggesting that aside from the even prize money on offer men received better treatment than women at the tournament.

The former world No. 1 lost in the fourth round to Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ending her best run at Roland Garros since she reached the 2013 semi-finals.

Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

Last year Azarenka fumed at being left to “sit like a duck” and walked off court complaining that it was “too cold” to play, as the 2020 tournament was delayed to late September due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Azarenka again took aim at officials following her defeat by Pavlyuchenkova, when asked about the scheduling of the new night sessions — with six of the seven so far featuring men’s matches.

“What concerns me is when somebody from French Federation is continually trying to say there is equality, and only pointing out to prize money, which is true,” said Azarenka.

“Everything else, I wouldn’t even agree for a little with that. And that’s disappointing.”

Serena Williams won the first official night match under the lights on Court Philippe Chatrier, but all evening sessions have been played behind closed doors due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew.

The French Tennis Federation’s three-year partnership with Amazon Prime Video that runs until 2023 means the day’s so-called top match is reserved for prime time audiences.

But the imbalance between men’s and women’s matches selected for the late timeslot has raised eyebrows, an issue complicated by the early exits of Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, and the absence of an injured Simona Halep.

Azarenka is sick of the inequality. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)Source:AFP

“I think there is enough examples over the years where we’ve heard remarks towards women, where we’ve seen two women’s semi-final matches playing on the outside courts,” continued Azarenka.

“I think sometimes you need to hold some people accountable for some of those things and not continuously point out to the obvious of prize money.”

“I just think that in general sometimes things here are made a bit too complicated.

“It’s just honestly a bit frustrating every time you’re trying to deal with the organisation here, it’s becoming ‘pas possible (not possible)’. Everything you hear is ‘pas possible’.”

In an effort to correct the scheduling imbalance, the last 16 match between defending champion Iga Swiatek and Marta Kostyuk has been given the evening slot.

Pavlyuchenkova, whose win saw her seal a first French Open quarter-final appearance since 2011, was, like Azarenka, a former member of the WTA player council.

“I mean, I accept it that we will probably never really be sort of equal in terms of television and popularity maybe,” said the Russian.

“I don’t know if I should really waste my energy and time fighting over this because right now, I mean, I’m doing my job, I want to win matches.

“And I really don’t mind, honestly with you, if I play on Court 2 or Philippe Chatrier. OK, it’s nicer. In the end of the day what I want is to win the tournament and play good. I don’t feel like wasting and talking about this.”

Pavlyuchenkova is heading towards the business end of the tournament. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Williams still searching for No. 24

Serena Williams said she was looking forward to Wimbledon after her latest quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title ended with a loss to Elena Rybakina in the French Open last 16.

The 39-year-old American went down 6-3 7-5 at Roland Garros to the Kazakh 21st seed, leaving her still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for most Grand Slam singles titles.

She has not gone beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros since losing the 2016 final, the year after capturing the last of her three titles in Paris. Her last major triumph came at the 2017 Australian Open while she was pregnant.

“I’m kind of excited to switch surfaces, but historically I have done pretty well on grass,” said Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon singles champion.

“I have done pretty well on clay too. Just not this particular season.”

Williams became the eighth top-10 seed in the women’s draw to depart, out-muscled by the Russian-born Rybakina who was appearing in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.

“It was definitely close. I’m so close. There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match,” said Williams.

“I’m not winning those points. That like literally could just change everything.”

Despite arriving in Paris with just one win on clay this season, Williams had seen her title hopes boosted by the absence of Halep and early exits of Barty and Osaka.

Instead, she was knocked out by an opponent who was just two months old when Williams won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September 1999.

“I’m in a much better place than when I got here,” Williams said. “You know, (I was) just literally trying to win a match, because it had been a really difficult season for me on the clay.”

Asked whether it could be her last French Open, a smiling Williams gave little away.

“I’m definitely not thinking about it at all,” she said. “I’m definitely thinking just about other things but not about that.”

Williams is still waiting for her 24th major singles title.Source:AFP

Rybakina, 21, extended her best run at a major as she advanced to her first quarter-final, where she will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the last four.

“I am so happy with my match, it was amazing,” said Rybakina, who at 22 is the highest-ranked player left in her half of the draw.

“Of course I was nervous, I was not serving that well in the game before, but I am happy that I managed to control them in the end.”

Far from being overawed by the occasion, Rybakina’s powerful hitting put Williams on the receiving end of treatment she has dealt out to countless rivals over the past two decades.

“I was small, of course I was watching her matches on TV. So many Grand Slams,” said Rybakina, who had called Williams a “legend of the sport” going into their first meeting.

“It’s difficult to expect anything, because you watch on TV and that’s completely different when you come on court and you feel the power and everything.

“I knew that the serve was going to be difficult for me to return. She’s powerful, but I was ready. Then after few points I felt it comfortable, so nothing.”

Source: Read Full Article