French Open lacking equality: Azarenka

·2-min read

Former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka has criticised the French Open for scheduling men's matches in nearly all night slots this year, saying the tournament lacks real gender equality.

The twice grand slam champion also said practice courts were not prepared properly and complained that organisers of the claycourt major were unhelpful.

So far, six of the seven night sessions, for which Amazon have the exclusive television broadcasting rights in France, have featured men's matches, with only Serena Williams being asked to take the court shortly before sunset.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek was pencilled in for Monday's night session for her fourth-round match against Marta Kostyuk when the organisers announced the order of play.

The French Tennis Federation (FFT), which organises the tournament, and the women's WTA Tour did not respond to a request for comment.

The night session, in place for the first time, is being played in an empty stadium because of the 9pm local curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What concerns me is when somebody from the French federation is continuously trying to say that there's equality and only pointing to prize money, which is true," Azarenka told a press conference.

"Everything else, I wouldn't even agree a little with that. And that's disappointing," the Belarusian said after her fourth-round defeat, later adding she was not targeting a specific person.

"I think there are 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," she added.

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

Asked how she would have reacted if asked to play in a night session here, she said: "I will answer that whenever I will be asked if I would like to play a night session or not. Honestly, that would be already a step forward."

The Australian and US Opens also have night sessions but, unlike the French Open, they feature more than one match.

Azarenka, beaten 5-7 6-3 6-2 by Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, also that "in general sometimes things here are made a bit too complicated" at the French Open.

"It's just honestly a bit frustrating every time you're trying to deal with the organisation here, it's becoming 'pas possible'. Everything you hear is 'pas possible'," she said.

"It has nothing to do with the outcome today or the other day. When you're coming to warm up before the match, the court is completely wet where it's kind of dangerous to move.

"I just have a genuine question, Why? Why can it not be ready when people know somebody is coming to practise, players are going to warm up? I don't understand why simple things like this are not in place."

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