A furore has erupted at the Madrid Open after Victoria Azarenka and Bianca Andreescu pointed out a striking difference between the birthday celebrations for several players throughout the tournament. A debate broke out among tennis fans after it was pointed out that Aryna Sabalenka and Carlos Alcaraz, who share a birthday, were treated markedly differently by tournament organisers recognising the occasion.
Sabalenka had shared a photo with a simple but well decorated cake given to her by the Madrid Open by organisers - only for it to be pointed out that she had been well and truly upstaged by the celebrations for Alcaraz on centre court following his semi-final win over Borna Coric. A gargantuan multi-tiered cake was brought onto the court during the post-match ceremonies, so large that it required multiple people to carry it.
World No. 27 Andreescu commented 'That doesn't look right', while Azarenka also weighed in. She intimated that it was emblematic of the divide between men's and women's players.
“Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment,” she tweeted. However that comment drew a variety of responses from tennis fans - particularly Spanish fans who argued it was unsurprising that the home hero would have a more elaborate celebration.
The commentary also attracted the attention of tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who similarly argued the point that Alcaraz would be celebrated on home soil. He also pointed out that Holger Rune had been gifted a similar cake to Sabalenka on his birthday the week prior.
“I’m surprised by this reaction after this gesture! 1. Carlos had just won his match to reach the final. 2. He was playing on centre court. 3. The tournament is played in Spain, even though it is an international event. PS: I hope Rune wasn’t also upset by his treatment,” he wrote on Twitter in response to Azarenka.
I’m surprised by this reaction after this gesture!
1. Carlos had just won his match to reach the final
2. He was playing on centre court
3. The tournament is played in Spain, even though it is an international event
PS: I hope Rune wasn’t also upset by his treatment 😜 https://t.co/ApK1IiiD6l pic.twitter.com/1mEoIitXxs
— Feliciano López (@feliciano_lopez) May 5, 2023
While there wre many understanding of the argument regarding it being Alcaraz's home tournament, many still couldn't get past the sheer difference in size of the cakes. Other were critical that the extravagent celebration, though well-intentioned, left the tournament open to such criticism.
“Ppl are saying it’s bc he’s Spanish and yea I’m sure that is part of it but the size difference is INSANE????” replied one fan. Alcaraz will face Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff in the final on Monday, while Sabalenka faces off against women's World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the women's final on Sunday.
Carlos Alcaraz to face lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff in Madrid final
The centre court crowd treated Alcaraz to a rendition of happy birthday after his win over Coric, with the occasion clearly leaving an impression on the now 20-year-old.
It means a lot to me, playing a final again here in Madrid," said Alcaraz. "It's such a special place for me and I have great memories since I came here to play under-12s. Of course, last year was amazing.
"Turning 20 like that is special, so I will enjoy the final here and of course I will try to make all of Spain happy."
Alcaraz's latest win came as Rafael Nadal said he would miss the Italian Open in Rome next week as he continues to recover from a hip injury. The younger Spaniard is rapidly establishing himself as the French Open favourite.
Struff became the first lucky loser to reach the trophy decider at a Masters 1000 event. Bizarrely, he lost to Aslan Karatsev in qualifying, only to meet the Russian again in the semi-finals after both men put together brilliant runs.
Karatsev won the opening set but increasingly struggled with a left thigh problem and Struff battled to a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory that ensures he will hit a new career-high ranking inside the top 30.
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