The French Open has been forced to defend itself for the second straight year after Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens played the first women's night session match this year after furore around the slot. Last year, Roland Garros introduced the night session. Unlike the Australian and US Open, spectators buy tickets for just one match on Philippe Chatrier court during the session.
Outrage started last year when the tournament admitted it would review the scheduling after backlash. However, a year on and this year the night session had been six straight men's matches.
This one again caused uproar with tennis commentator David Law arguing the women weren't being rewarded with the same spotlight as men at the grand slam.
And the players have also noted the differences. Tunisian icon Ons Jabeur hit out at the fans on the weekend after reports tickets for the final night session of week one were resold after spectators learned it was a women's match for the first time in 2023.
"It's time to change that vision, because I find that people don't watch many female matches and they just judge that it's going to be a crappy match. But it's not the case, there are a lot of extraordinary matches," Jabeur said.
"Women are training, playing extraordinary matches ... How can you judge a women's match without watching it? I hope that is going to change the mentality of giving a chance for these women who fight on a daily basis. Because honestly, we do a lot of efforts. We make a lot of sacrifices that men don't have to do on the tour."
Jabeur also questioned why Roland Garros couldn't move to two night sessions like the Australian and US Open. And after Sabalenka defeated Sloanes in a tight two-set thriller, the Belarusian called for fans to seek changes after an entertaining women's night sessions.
"I just saw for a couple of days that people didn't like they put a woman's match at night. I wasn't sure what would happen, if people wouldn't come to watch us play," Sabalenka said. "I was surprised, there were a lots of people going crazy and I hope they enjoyed the match and will ask for another women's match at night."
And Sabalenka's sentiment was echoed within the tennis community. Tennis great Mats Wilander slammed the scheduling as 'ridiculous' last week. Many slammed the tournament for not allowing more women's matches in the primetime piece and praised Sabalenka and Sloanes for putting on a show.
Really hoping this will be packed tomorrow but hundreds of tickets were put back on resale at the official website after the announcement that a women’s match would be the night one. This e never happened during the rest of the week. https://t.co/pjLquqKwSn pic.twitter.com/YfAD7pMQ3s
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) June 3, 2023
The "women's Night Session" debate will continue in some quarters, as this one was neither AMAZING nor a blowout. It was pretty good, though.
And the crowd was great.
Now ... Ukrainian Svitolina for Sabalenka.
Sabalenka said she didn't expect this many people. pic.twitter.com/87UYvwUwaq
— Stephanie Myles (@OpenCourt) June 4, 2023
i’m so happy, look at all those people watching a women’s night session https://t.co/abYoqqchVg
— 𝓃 (@kordeivibing) June 4, 2023
Definitely! Wouldn't be mad to see any of the women's quarterfinals being during night sesh as well. Lots of potential crackers!
— Angie 💯✌️☝️ (@angs2014) June 4, 2023
The night session at the French Open is billed as the match of the day.
Last year, 1 in 10 nights were women’s matches.
This year so far, 0 of the 6 nights will have had women’s matches scheduled.
Tomorrow night, Zverev vs. Tiafoe.
No Swiatek, Jabeur or Gauff vs. Andreeva.
— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) June 2, 2023
Ons Jabeur calls for two night matches at Roland Garros
On Monday, the night session Philippe Chatrier court will once again see the men's round of 16 clash Alexander Zverev take on Grigor Dimitov. Women's World No.1 Iga Swiatek will play Lesia Tsurenko on Court Suzanne-Lenglen during the day session.
One solution to the drama in Paris is running two night matches likes other grand slams. Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo argued the Parisian crowd would struggle to leave work in time for two matches on Philippe Chatrier court.
However, Jabeur argued it was 'high time' to make more of an effort in Paris to give the women their time on the main stage. "I played very late in Australia, I played very late at the US Open. It's not necessarily a good thing, but it's just putting two matches," she added.
"Maybe they should start the night session a bit earlier to be able to put two matches. I understand with men playing five sets it can be difficult, but we did it in the other Grand Slams."
Sabalenka has now set-up a blockbuster match with Elina Svitolina in the women's quarter-final.
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