Ash Barty truth in French Open boss' confronting admission
French Open boss Amelie Mauresmo has admitted it has been 'tough' to determine which women's fixtures to include in high profile slots on the schedule, amid criticism from top players.
World No.1 Iga Swiatek said it was 'surprising and disappointing' to hear Mauresmo say the men's game carried more 'appeal' to fans at the moment.
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Scheduling has been controversial at this year's French Open, with first-time tournament director Mauresmo also facing criticism from players unhappy about the introduction of night sessions for the first time in the tournament's history.
Ten night sessions have been played so far but only one was a women's match-up - the second round match between home hope Alize Cornet and Jelena Ostapenko.
Several top seeded women's players were knocked out in the early rounds this year, renewing some fears that Ash Barty's retirement had robbed the WTA Tour of one of it's most reliable stars.
Mauresmo said it had been difficult to find another women's match to highlight after Cornet's second match.
“In this era that we are in right now, and as a woman, a former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying you have more attraction, more attractivity — can you say that? Appeal? For the men’s matches,” Mauresmo said.
“My goal when I was doing the schedule every day was to try and see a match in the women’s draw that I can put there.
“Honestly, it was tough. It was tough for more than one night to find the match of the day.”
Ash Barty's absence has been keenly felt, with many fans taking to Twitter during the first grand slam after the 25-year-old's retirement.
When you get excited about @rolandgarros check the draw to see who @ashbarty is playing first round.
And then you remember. She’s retired #frenchopen pic.twitter.com/rWdwewXRHH
— Nat Edwards (@Nat_Edwards) May 21, 2022
The champagne was flowing after @ashbarty claimed the @AustralianOpen but the first grand slam in the “After Ash” era proved sobering. But the grass is always greener for Aussies the other side of the English Channel. An assessment from some senior Aussies. @rolandgarros https://t.co/7Qjw0rH4IK
— Courtney Walsh (@walshcee) May 28, 2022
Happy that Ash Barty is at the MCG..
BUT, it reminds me of when she was at the Gabba, and not playing the French Open, and I couldn’t even deal with THAT so seeing her…
RETIRED and at the football is VERY triggering so I’m sorry in advance, but I’m not over it yet 😭
— Catherine Murphy (@CathMurphySport) April 24, 2022
Former French Open champ Swiatek said she was disappointed by the comments.
“I want my tennis to be entertainment and I remember that I also play for people. Women’s tennis has a lot of advantages," she said.
“Some may say that it’s unpredictable and girls are not consistent. But on the other hand it may also be something that is really appealing and it may really attract more people.”
Ash Barty absence felt in women's French Open scheduling
While women's tennis in Australia remains in string health thanks to the likes of Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic leading the way, both have a ways to go before reaching Barty's grand slam winning appeal.
The recently retired Sam Stosur told The Guardian Barty's retirement would put some pressure on the next generation, but she was optimistic about the future.
“I think Ash covered up a few holes in where our players are," she said.
“All of a sudden, things are not looking so great.
“We need all of those to kind of push each other along and really try to get up the rankings.
“One in the top 100 is not great by any means but hopefully we can push the eight, 10 to 12 players in the next bracket. Hopefully it is not too long.”
The 21-year-old Swiatek looms as their heir apparent to Barty having assumed the number one rank in her stead, living up to her standing with a commanding run to the semi-finals.
Swiatek extended her unbeaten run to 33 matches - the longest on tour since Serena Williams won 34 in a row in 2013 - when she thumped American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-2 on Wednesday.
Having also lost to the now-retired Barty in the Australian Open quarter-finals four months ago, Pegula was in a good position to offer perspective on their games.
"To be honest, she (Swiatek) kind of plays like a guy. And, I mean that as, Ash (Barty) was a similar way, where they don't play like a typical girl where they hit kind of flat and the ball kind of goes through the court," Pegula said.
"She plays a little more unorthodox in the fact that she has, like, a really heavy forehand. But at the same time she also likes to step in and take it really early, and I think clay gives her more time, and I think it makes her forehand even harder to deal with."
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