Victoria Azarenka says French Open needs equality after expressing concerns over scheduling

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka’s best run at the French Open was in 2013 when she was beaten in the semi-finals by Maria Sharapova

Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka says there is little true equality between men and women at the French Open.

The prize money is equal, but of the first seven matches scheduled in the high-profile night session, six have been chosen from the men’s draw.

“What concerns me is when somebody from the French Federation is continuously trying to say there is equality and only pointing to prize money,” the former world number one said, when asked directly about the scheduling.

“But everything else, I wouldn’t even agree for a little with that. And that’s disappointing.”

The French Tennis Federation, the sport’s national governing body, is responsible for organising the French Open.

Serena Williams
Twenty three-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams won the first, and so far only, women’s night match of the French Open

For the first time, the French Open has introduced daily night sessions, which consist of one match starting at 9pm local time under the floodlights on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Serena Williams and Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu played the first-ever night session match on Monday, but the past six nights have all featured men.

Ten night sessions have been planned, and are being billed as the match of the day.

“I think there are enough examples over the years where we have heard remarks towards women, where we’ve seen two women’s semi-final matches playing on the outside courts,” Azarenka continued, in a reference to 2019, when all the semi-finals had to be played on the same day, and Centre Court was reserved for the men.

“I think sometimes you need to hold some people accountable for some of those things, and not continuously point out to the obvious of prize money.”

She added it “would be already a step forward” if she were ever asked to play at night in future.

Quizzed about this before the French Open got under way, tournament director Guy Forget refused to commit to an equal number of women’s matches.

“We want the fans to be happy,” he said.

“Tennis is a show, and we want people to see a two-hour match if they can. Now there will be probably times when we will have great women’s matches, very close, very tight – and those matches will probably have to be on the night session.

“When we made that call a while ago, we thought: Are we going to have night session with two matches? New York does, and Melbourne does, and I don’t know if the French people were ready to stay until two or three in the morning to watch tennis matches in Paris.”

Azarenka was speaking after losing her fourth-round match to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, and was also critical of the state of the courts.

“It’s a bit frustrating every time you are trying to deal with the organisation here,” she continued.

“Everything you hear is ‘pas possible’. When you are coming to warm up before the match and the court is completely wet, where it’s kind of dangerous to move, I just have a genuine question: ‘Why can it not be ready?'”

BBC News