Amelie Mauresmo has apologised to female players for saying only one women’s match was staged in the French Open night sessions because men’s tennis has “more appeal”. And the tournament organiser said there could be two matches in the night sessions next year with an earlier start.
World No 1 Iga Swiatek hit back in the sexism row by claiming women’s tennis is “really appealing” because of its unpredictability. And the WTA issued a statement calling for a “balanced match schedule”.
Mauresmo, who held a car-crash press conference on Wednesday, went on the Tennis Channel today to try to limit the damage. Andy Murray’s former coach said: “I want to say sorry to the players that really felt bad about what I said.
“I think the people who know me, who’ve known me on and off the court, throughout my career, throughout everything that I’ve done, know that I’m a big fighter for equal rights and women’s tennis, women in general.
“Concerning the scheduling, specifically for the night matches, my say was that because we have one match only, the ticket holders, I feel that it’s really tougher to schedule a woman’s match because we have to take into consideration the length, I feel.
“I feel it’s the fair kind of thing to do for the ticket-holders. And in this regard, I really want to see if next year because I took over but this part, but I didn’t decide to have this one match.
“So I feel that next year in order to be able to be more fair to the women’s player, as well as to both categories actually, it would be good to maybe have the possibility to put two matches or maybe a women’s match plus a doubles match. Try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone.
“I also think it’s too late. But we tried to modernise the event. We tried to move forward and I can see that there are some adjustments to be made. That’s for sure. And we’re going to talk about it after the tournament.”
The only women’s match to be shown in the prime-time slot on French Amazon Prime was last Thursday’s second round match between local favourite Alize Cornet and former champion Jelena Ostapenka. Tournament organisers have also drawn fire for the scheduled start time of 8.45pm which meant the Rafa Nadal-Novak Djokovic quarter-final did not finish until 1.16pm.
The WTA statement read: “The generation and depth of talent we are currently witnessing in the sport is incredible. Our fans want to see the excitement and thrill of women’s tennis on the biggest stages and in the premium time slots.
“There is certainly room for improvement and if we want to build the value of our combined product, then a balanced match schedule is critical in providing that pathway.”