Several top women's players have spoken out at the Madrid Open after the doubles winners and runners-up were barred from making a speech after the tournament. The men's doubles winners made speeches, leaving top 10 ranked players Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula bemused by the decision, with tennis great Rennae Stubbs and World No.4 Ons Jabeur also furious over the treatment.
The treatment of women at the Madrid Open has been a talking point throughout, after the tournament attracted criticism for the long-running practice of replacing ball-kids with female models, outfitted in noticeably more skimpy attire than anywhere else on tour. A debate also erupted among fans after Spanish World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz was presented with a comically large cake to celebrate his birthday after a match on centre court, with fans noticing Aryna Sabalenka had been given a noticeably smaller dessert by the tournament.
Sabalenka toppled Iga Swiatek in the women's singles final, with tournament boss Feliciano Lopez looking notably unimpressed when Swiatek made mention in her speech that two of her matches had ended past 1am local time. It culminated in none of the women's doubles finalists - Gauff, Pegula, Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad-Maia - being permitted to speak after the match.
None of the four players said they had been told why they weren't allowed to make a speech - with Gauff writing on Twitter afterwards that she 'wasn't given a chance to speak'. Pegula added to Gauff's tweet with a 'lips zipped' emoji, while Azarenka said it had been 'hard to explain' to her young son why she wasn't able to say hello to him after the match.
Meanwhile, Jabeur said it was 'unacceptable' that the women's doubles finalists were not given the same opportunity to speak as their male counterparts. "So unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents. This is sad and unacceptable," she wrote.
Australian former doubles World No.1 Stubbs said it was a 'disgrace' that the players weren't given an opportunity to speak. She said the tournament director Lopez owed both players and fans an explanation.
She wasn't the only one, with 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'.
so unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents. This is sad and unacceptable 🤯 https://t.co/XGc7aW0s22
— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) May 7, 2023
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
— Rennae Stubbs 🟦👍🏼 (@rennaestubbs) May 7, 2023
Madrid Open cut the speech session for the women’s doubles final between Coco Gauff/Jessica Pegula & Victoria Azarenka/Beatriz Haddad Maia
Very strange to say the least. I know the men’s doubles final had speeches. pic.twitter.com/wHMg2I0lYK
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 7, 2023
The Mutua Madrid Open choosing to silence the women’s doubles finalists (ie not letting them speak during the trophy ceremony) because they’re butthurt over Cakegate and some glancing criticisms yesterday is truly one of the wilder miscalculations I’ve seen in tennis lately. https://t.co/TmXQpYI2xc
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 7, 2023
It was never just about cakes.
Madrid has a long, hard-earned reputation among players (and other observant people) for treating the women as second-rate. It’s never felt like an equal prize money event when you’re watching or at the site; Tiriac even sued to make it unequal.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 7, 2023
Madrid Open under fire over controversies regarding women
Sabalenka had shared a photo with a simple but well decorated cake given to her by the Madrid Open 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 Bianca 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.
Swiatek was quick to congratulate her opponent but took a potshot at the scheduling Madrid Open, after two of her six matches finished past 1am local time. Tournament director Feliciano Lopez was standing right behind Swiatek when she made the comment, with fans pointing out that he clearly looked unhappy.
“It’s not fun to play at 1am though,” she said. “I’m happy anyway I was able to get past this experience and survive and be in the final.”
The Madrid Open is also set to ditch the models in mini-skirts replacing the ballkids, with models at next year's tournament to be dressed differently. Fans have still called for the tournament to go back to using ballkids as opposed to adult models.
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