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World No.1 Iga Świątek has hit back at Amelie Mauresmo after the French legend's "disappointing" comments about women's tennis.
Świątek shook off early nerves to extend her winning steak to a staggering 33 matches as she beat American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-2 to book a spot in the French Open semi-finals.
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However, the recently turned 21-year-old was forced to defend the appeal of the women's game after comments from Mauresmo.
The former World No.1 - in her first year as the French Open's first female tournament director - explained that nine of the 10 night sessions at Roland Garros had involved men's matches because women’s tennis currently has less “appeal.”
Speaking at the traditional second-week news conference to recap the clay-court Grand Slam tournament, Mauresmo said she tried on a daily basis to find a women’s pairing that had the star power or a matchup worthy of being highlighted in the separate session that begins at 8:45pm local time on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I admit it was tough,” Mauresmo said.
“In this era that we are in right now, I don’t feel — and as a woman, former women’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying that, right now — you have more ... appeal.
“That’s the general (reason) for the men’s matches.”
She added: “My goal was, when I was doing the schedule every day, to try and see, from the first round, when the draw came out ... ‘what match in the woman’s draw can I put there?’ honestly.”
Swiatek admitted that she found the comments “a little bit disappointing and surprising.”
“It’s kind of the personal opinion of every person if they like men’s tennis or women’s tennis more or if they like them equally, but I think women’s tennis has a lot of advantages,” the 2020 French Open champion said.
“And 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.”
Backlash over Amelie Mauresmo comments
Swiatek's beaten quarter-final opponent Pegula also labelled Mauresmo's stance “not something you want to hear,” and noted that the best way to grow interest in any sport is “to have chances” to show how good the product is.
“Of course, it’s always a little disappointing to hear that’s her reasoning, being a female ... Slam champion,” Pegula said.
“But hopefully we can change that.”
She also offered a defence of her sport, which is currently missing the star power of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who has not competed since getting injured at Wimbledon nearly a year ago.
Former World No.1 Ash Barty also retired earlier in the year, leaving a large hole at the top of the women's game.
“To me, I feel like so many people love watching women’s tennis because we don’t have huge serves. We’re not acing. There’s not a lot of super, super quick points,” Pegula said.
“There’s more rallies. There’s more drama.”
This year’s French Open began on May 22 and will end on Sunday. The last of the 10 night sessions was Wednesday's men's quarterfinal between Casper Ruud and Holger Rune, and the only women’s match that got the prime-time treatment — part of a deal with a streaming service — was French woman Alizé Cornet’s victory over Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.
Asked about that decision-making process, Mauresmo said in French that having just one match in each night session made it “more difficult to have” that be a women’s match.
Night sessions at the US Open, for example, usually include one women’s match and one men’s match.
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