Madrid Open causes controversy: ‘Sexist’ ball girl outfits, silencing the women’s finalists and small birthday cakes


The Madrid Open, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments outside of the four Grand Slam tournaments, attracts the biggest names in the sport.

However, this year’s edition drew as much attention to the off-court controversies as it did to the clay-court action.

At the Masters 1000 event – which ended this weekend with Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka crowned men’s and women’s singles champions – organizers were criticized for dressing the ball girls on the main court in tops shorts and short skirts.

Following the backlash, the skirts were swapped for long shorts in Sunday’s finale, but the crop tops remained.

“It’s a feminized way of treating girls against guys who don’t dress like that,” Pilar Calvo, spokesperson for the Association of Women in Professional Sport, told Spanish media Público.

“At the end of the day, it’s a form of gender-based violence that’s so prevalent that people don’t even notice it.”

The Madrid Open and IMG – the tournament is part of the sports management company’s list of tennis events – were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN Sport.

The sexism row didn’t end there, however, with the players in Sunday’s women’s doubles final accusing organizers of not allowing them to speak after the match.

Neither the winners – Beatriz Haddad Maia and Victoria Azarenka – nor the losers – American pair Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff – gave acceptance speeches.

“We didn’t get a chance to talk after the final today,” Gauff tweeted with a sad face, while Azarenka added that it was “difficult to explain to Leo that mum can’t say hello at the awards ceremony.”

“I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision,” Pegula added, according to the BBC. “Or how they had a conversation and decided, ‘Wow, that’s a great decision and there will be no backlash against it.

“I never heard in my life that we couldn’t talk. It was really disappointing. In a $10,000 [lower level] final you would speak.

“It spoke for itself. We were upset when it happened and were told at the awards ceremony that we weren’t able to speak. It kind of proved a point.

World number 7 and last year’s winner Ons Jabeur called it “sad and unacceptable”, with former Grand Slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs calling it a “shame”.

It was the second time Azarenka had criticized tournament organizers at this year’s edition of the Madrid Open after a fan posted two photos on Twitter showing the difference in size of the birthday cakes given away. in Alcaraz and Sabalenka, which share a birthday on May 5.

Azarenka responded to the tweet, saying, “Can’t be more specific about the treatment.”

This prompted a response from tournament director Feliciano López, a former world number 12 and seven-time ATP Tour winner, who said he was “surprised by this reaction after this gesture”.

Explaining the reasons why Alcaraz got a multi-tiered cake and Sabalenka got a single-tiered cake, López said it was because Alcaraz had just reached the final, were playing on the main court and he was the home favorite for the Spanish tournament.

“PS: I hope Rune wasn’t so upset with his treatment,” he concluded, along with a winking emoji and a photo of male player Holger Rune also receiving a tiered cake. earlier in the tournament.

Lopez was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN Sport.


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