French Open director Amelia Mauresmo has backtracked after making stunning comments about women’s tennis in the post-Ash Barty era.
French Open tournament director Amelie Mauresmo has backtracked after saying women’s tennis was less “appealing” than the men’s game.
Of the 10 night sessions at this year’s tournament, only one featured a women’s tie when home player Alize Cornet faced Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.
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“In this era that we are in right now, and as a woman, a former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying you have more attraction, more attractivity — can you say that? Appeal? For the men’s matches,” Mauresmo, a former world number one and a two-time Grand Slam champion, said on Wednesday.
“My goal when I was doing the schedule every day was to try and see a match in the women’s draw that I can put there.
“Honestly, it was tough. It was tough for more than one night to find the match of the day.”
Those comments reflected a feeling that emerged after the shock retirement of Aussie champion Ash Barty, where some suggested her early departure from the sport would leave a gaping hole in the women’s game.
Mauresmo suggested that was the case before clarifying herself on Friday.
“I want to say sorry to the players that really felt bad about what I said,” Mauresmo told the Tennis Channel.
“The comments I made were taken out of context.
“The people who know me, who’ve known me on and off the court, throughout my career, throughout everything that I’ve done, know I’m a big fighter for equal rights and women’s tennis, women in general.”
Mauresmo said scheduling was a challenge, with only one match slated for the French Open’s new night session, and suggested changes would be looked at.
“I didn’t decide to have this one match (a night),” she said.
“Next year to be more fair to the women’s players it would be good to maybe have the possibility to put two matches or maybe a women’s match plus a doubles match.
“Concerning the scheduling, specifically for the night matches, my say was that because we have one match only, it’s really tougher to schedule a women’s match because we have to take into consideration the length. It’s the fair thing to do for the ticketholders.
“We will try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone. We tried to modernise the event, move forward and there are some adjustments to be made.”
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who bulldozed her way into Saturday’s French Open final, said Mauresmo’s initial comments were “disappointing”.
“It is a little bit disappointing and surprising,” said the 21-year-Pole.
“I want my tennis to be entertainment and I remember that I also play for people. Women’s tennis has a lot of advantages.
“Some may say that it’s unpredictable and girls are not consistent. But on the other hand it may also be something that is really appealing and it may really attract more people.”
The WTA said the “depth of talent we are currently witnessing in the sport is incredible” and called for a balanced match schedule.
“Our fans want to see the excitement and thrill of women’s tennis on the biggest stages and in the premium timeslots. There is certainly room for improvement,” the WTA said in a statement to AFP.