One of the most prestigious tennis tournaments outside of the four grand slams, the Madrid Open attracts the biggest names in the sport.
However, this year’s edition has drawn as much attention for off-court controversy as it has for the action on the clay surface.
During the Masters 1000 event – which ended over the weekend with Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka being crowned men’s and women’s singles champions – organizers were criticized for dressing the ball girls on the main court in crop tops and short skirts.
Following the backlash, the skirts were swapped for long shorts in Sunday’s final, but the crop tops remained.
“It’s a feminized way of treating girls versus guys who don’t dress like that,” Pilar Calvo, spokesperson for The Association for Women in Professional Sports, told Spanish outlet Público.
“In the end, it is a form of sexist violence that is so widespread because people don’t even notice it.”
The sexism row didn’t stop there, though, with the players in Sunday’s women’s doubles final accusing organizers of not allowing them to speak after the match.
Neither the winners – Beatriz Haddad Maia and Victoria Azarenka – or the losers – US pair Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff – gave acceptance speeches.
“Wasn’t given the chance to speak after the final today,” Gauff tweeted with a sad face, while Azarenka added that it was “hard to explain to Leo that mommy isn’t able to say hello to him at the trophy ceremony.”
“I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision,” Pegula added, per the BBC. “Or how they had a conversation and decided, ‘Wow, this is a great decision and there’s going to be no-backlash against this.’
“I’ve never heard in my life we wouldn’t be able to speak. It was really disappointing. In a $10,000 [lower level] final you would speak.
“It spoke for itself. We were upset when it happened and told during the trophy ceremony we weren’t able to speak. It kind of proved a point.”
World No. 7 and last year’s winner Ons Jabeur called it “sad and unacceptable,” with former grand slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs labelling it a “disgrace.”
That marked the second time Azarenka had criticized tournament organizers during this year’s edition of the Madrid Open after a fan posted two photos on Twitter showing the difference in size of the birthday cakes given to Alcaraz and Sabalenka, who share a birthday on May 5.
Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment https://t.co/x89RytI0zV
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 5, 2023
Azarenka replied to the tweet, saying: “Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment.”
That drew a response from tournament director Feliciano López, a former world No. 12 and seven-time winner on the ATP Tour, who said he was “surprised by this reaction after this gesture.”
Explaining the reasons for Alcaraz getting a multi-tiered cake and Sabalenka getting a single-tier cake, López said it was because Alcaraz had just reached the final, was playing on the main court and that he is the home favorite for the Spanish tournament.
“PS: I hope Rune wasn’t also upset by his treatment,” he finished, accompanied by a winking emoji and a photo of men’s player Holger Rune also receiving a single-tiered cake earlier in the tournament.