Women's doubles finalists Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff have let rip at the Madrid Open over their decision to cut short the trophy ceremony so no speeches were made. The Madrid Open found itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons last week after the ball women outfits sparked swift backlash across the tennis world.
A debate then erupted among fans after Spanish World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz was presented with a larger-than-life cake to celebrate his birthday after a match on centre court, with viewers noticing Aryna Sabalenka had been given a smaller dessert by the tournament.
And to make matters worse, tournament boss Feliciano Lopez looked unimpressed when singles finalist Iga Swiatek made mention in her speech that two of her matches had ended past 1am local time. To end the tournament, the women's doubles champions and finalists were not presented the opportunity to speak after their match.
Gauff, Pegula, Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad-Maia exited the arena without speaking to the crowd or viewers, which sparked accusations that the tournament was trying to 'silence' the women players.
The tennis world erupted with tennis great Rennae Stubbs calling the treatment a 'disgrace', while World No.4 Ons Jabeur said it was 'unacceptable' the players weren't allowed their time to speak. The Madrid Open has yet to make a comment over the decision, which saw the men's doubles winners make a speech.
While the Spanish tournament is staying silent, Pegula and Gauff have let their feelings known about the situation. Speaking in Rome, Pegula let rip at the tournament for a backwards view on the women.
“Did I think we were not going to be able to speak? No. I’ve never heard of that, like, in my life,” Pegula said in the press conference before the Italian Open. “Even in a $10K challenger final you would speak.
"I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision or how they actually had a conversation and decided: ‘Wow, this is a great decision we’re going to do and there’s going to be no backlash against this.’”
Coco Gauff calls out Madrid Open over treatment
Gauff claimed she received an apology after the incident, but was still left confused to how it played out. "I was told it was a situation that didn’t involve me that happened,” Gauff said.
“I’m not going to go into that situation. People probably know what it was. But, yeah, that’s what I was told. I said that situation for me was not deep enough to not have a trophy ceremony. I think that we worked hard to get to that final.”
Gauff claimed the tournament shouldn't be able to retaliate and take it out on the players if they cop criticism, which could lead to bigger issues. “But I think it was just more about the principle behind it, that in future cases, maybe me or somebody else criticises the organisation or tournament, maybe deeper than what was said, I don’t know, maybe racism, homophobia, something like that," she added.
"You can’t just cut, no speech, no nothing. You have to take those criticisms.” The tennis world was rightfully infuriated with how the trophy ceremony unfolded.
Prominent tennis writer Ben Rothenberg also highly critical of the decision. He said it was an embarrassing move to 'silence' female players after the aforementioned controversies over the cakes and ball models, labelling it 'one of the wilder miscalculations I've seen'.
Hard to explain to Leo that mommy isn’t able to say hello to him at the trophy ceremony
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 7, 2023
There is understandable disgust about how the Madrid Open treated the female players and even female ball kids.
Will anyone find outrage about how the ATP tour hands 2nd class status to players from claycourt cultures by granting hardcourt players a 2:1 tournament advantage?
— Tennis In the Park 🇺🇦 (@TennisInthePar1) May 9, 2023
Where’s the champion’s speech? Are you silencing women?
— Só estou aqui por tênis🎾 (@MariaCl51804796) May 7, 2023
MADRID OPEN = DISGRACEFUL AND OUTDATED
— D Woodcroft (@dwoodcroft) May 9, 2023
Sexism alive and well in tennis. Especially having the female ball girls barely dressed while boys had proper attire on.
— GBR 🏴☠️ (@GBRHatRoom) May 9, 2023
The tournament also became embroiled in a ball girl drama. The ball women on the main court for the men's matches were seen wearing short skirts and with their midriff on display.
On the outside courts, both boys and girls are used - and their outfits are much more conservative. The mixed crew wear a blue outfit with the Lacoste logo and the ball team is also made up of younger participants who have trained for longer.
The model ball women remained for Alcaraz's semi-final win over Borna Coric on La Caja Magica stadium. However, fans were quick to point out that during Alcaraz's victory over Jan-Lennard Struf in the final, the ball women had changed outfit.
The ball women had moved from skirts to three-quarter length pants, which would suggest a more conservative move after the backlash. The change in outfit didn't go unnoticed with fans labelling the decision as 'damage control' after the furious backlash surrounding the Madrid Open.
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