'She did it before': Australian Open player hits back in 'disgusting' ball girl scandal

It's fair to say Elliot Benchetrit probably never thought he'd be labelled a "nasty piece of work" when he embarked on his Australian Open campaign.

The French tennis star has been forced to try and defend himself after landing at the centre of a bizarre controversy involving a ball girl and a banana.

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The scandal came about during the Frenchman's qualifying match for the first grand slam of the year when he requested a banana for some energy.

Rather than actually peel the piece of fruit himself, Benchetrit earnt the wrath of the chair umpire and the wider tennis world when he angrily insisted that the ball girl do it for him.

Elliot Benchetrit was condemned after asking a ball girl to peel his banana. Pic: Alex Theodoridis/Twitter

An angry chair umpire John Blom told Benchetrit that the girl was not his slave and demanded that he peel it himself, prompting the Frenchman to try and open it with his teeth.

The 21-year-old was roundly condemned over the incident, with viewers calling him a “privileged creep” and a “nasty piece of work” among other things.

Channel Nine's Karl Stefanovic also teed off on the Frenchman, labelling the incident "disgusting" on the Today Show.

“That is pretty rank isn’t it, asking a ballgirl to peel a banana?” Stefanovic said on Tuesday.

“Asking a ball-person to do that is disgusting. I think it’s terrible.”

Sydney Morning Herald writer Jessica Irvine agreed with Stefanovic, saying ball kids shouldn’t be asked to do such ‘outrageous’ tasks.

“It’s rigorous training to be a ball-person, you’ve got to be very professional, and I really don’t think that peeling bananas is part of the division of labour,” Irvine said.

“If she did it, she should get a pay rise. That is not the point of having ballgirls and ballboys around, their job is to get the ball. That’s outrageous.”

Frenchman defends himself in wake of criticism

Benchetrit has since defended his actions by offering some questionable excuses as to why he asked the ball girl to peel his banana.

He says the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.

Elliot Benchetrit has been forced to try and defend himself over the banana incident. Pic: Getty

"At 6-5 in the final set, during the changeover, I asked the ball girl to peel the banana for me as I had put some cream on my hands in order not to sweat," Benchetrit said.

"She had done it once before at the beginning of the match. But the second time the chair umpire stepped in and told me that the ball girl was not my slave and I had to peel the banana myself.

"I could not believe that the umpire said that and I find incredible how this situation got out of control on social media without people knowing what really happened on court."

Benchetrit is set to leave Australia with few memories to treasure after being bundled out in straight sets at the year's first grand slam.

The Frenchman lost 6-2 6-0 6-3 to Japan's Yuichi Sugita but will still pocket $90,000 as a first round loser at the Australian Open.