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Madrid Open finally apologises for sexism row

May 11th, 2023

Jessica Pegula (C) Coco Gauff (R) – WTA open investigation into Madrid Open over sexism row – Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

After four days of backlash, the Madrid Open has finally issued an apology for last weekend’s PR disaster, which saw the finalists of the women’s doubles ushered offstage without the traditional speeches, and promised that “This will not ever happen again.”

The silencing of the doubles finalists was the final straw in a tournament that came under fire for sexism on numerous levels. There was the debate over the revealing outfits worn by the model ball girls, the discrepancy in the size of the respective birthday cakes presented to the men’s and women’s champions, and the scheduling that relegated world No 1 Iga Swiatek to the small hours of Saturday morning.

On Thursday morning, the tournament released a statement from its chief executive Gerard Tsobanian. “We sincerely apologise to all the players and fans who expect more of the Mutua Madrid Open tournament,” Tsobanian said.

“Not giving our women’s doubles finalists the chance to address their fans at the end of the match was unacceptable,” he added, “and we have apologised directly to Victoria [Azarenka], Beatriz [Haddad Maia], Coco [Gauff] and Jessica [Pegula]. We are working internally and with the WTA to review our protocols and are committed to improving our process moving forward. We made a mistake and this will not ever happen again.”

The WTA had already indicated that they would be investigating events at the Caja Magica over the course of the tournament, which has been run by the super-agency IMG for the past two years. The Madrid Open ran over two weeks this year for the first time, but the expended tournament was overshadowed by controversy surrounding its gender politics.

Losing doubles finalist Pegula addressed the silencing issue on Tuesday: “Did I think we were not going to be able to speak? No. I’ve never heard of that, like, in my life. Even in a $10,000 Challenger final you would speak. I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision or how they actually had a conversation and decided: ‘Wow, this is a great decision we’re going to do and there’s going to be no backlash against this.’”

Meanwhile Andy Murray lost a deciding set for the first time this season, after nine previous successes, when he lost out to old foe Fabio Fognini by a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 scoreline.

It was a frustrating result for Murray, whose ranking has improved into the low 40s after Sunday’s Challenger title win, and who is hoping to climb high enough to earn a place among the 32 seeded players at the slams.

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