Tennis slammed over 'sexist and inappropriate disgrace'

The Association of Tennis Professionals and sponsors Red Bull have been forced to apologise after sparking furore with a controversial draw ceremony for the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The inaugural edition of the event, featuring some of the best players aged 21 or under, will be staged in Milan this week.

But organisers prompted widespread criticism and accusations of sexism by requiring players to pair up on a catwalk with female models, some of whom then suggestively revealed a card displaying the group the player would be drawn into.

Judy Murray, the mother of British Davis Cup stars Andy and Jamie Murray and former captain of Britain's Fed Cup team, described footage of the bizarre ceremony as "awful", while retired great Amelie Mauresmo branded it a "disgrace".

Tennis writer Reem Abulleil said the ATP went “back in time” with the strange show.

“There was inappropriate dancing, gloves that were removed by a player’s teeth, and many more cringeworthy moments,” she wrote for Sport 360.

“Most of the players looked visibly awkward, while some laughed their way through it. I personally felt deeply sad watching it all unfold.

Some of the players and the models. Image: Getty

“Why a tournament that is meant to be focused on the future of tennis would choose to regress in that manner is truly beyond me.

“Who thought it would be a good idea to handle the draw that way? And what kind of message are they sending to the young fans they are trying to attract to the sport?

“This is an event featuring eight players aged between 18 and 21. How about the ATP — and co-organisers the Italian Olympic Committee and Italian Tennis Federation — focus on the great values the sport stands for rather than instil sexist, antiquated behaviour in their so-called ‘Next Gen’?

The Next Gen finalists. Image: Getty

“If they wanted to go with the theme of Milan being a fashion capital of the world, there were many ways they could have done so without being wildly sexist and inappropriate.

“It reflects a complete detachment from reality on their part, especially in this day and age.”

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And the organisers have now promised not to make the same mistake again.

"ATP and Red Bull apologise for the offence caused by the draw ceremony for the Next Gen ATP Finals," the statement said.

"The intention was to integrate Milan's rich heritage as one of the fashion capitals of the world.

"However, our execution of the proceedings was in poor taste and unacceptable. We deeply regret this and will ensure that there is no repeat of anything like it in the future."

The Finals feature Karen Khachanov, Denis Shapovalov, Danill Medvedev, Borna Coric, Jared Donaldson, Gianluigi Quinzi, Chung Hyeon and Andrey Rublev.

with agencies