World No 3 Jessica Pegula critical of Madrid Open as women’s doubles finalists not able to give speeches at trophy ceremony – yet men’s finalists did; organisers apologise for “unacceptable” situation; further accusations of sexism around ball girls’ uniforms, birthday cakes for players
The organisers of the Madrid Open have apologised to the women’s doubles finalists of this year’s tournament following criticism for denying players the opportunity to make speeches at the trophy ceremony.
Singles world number three Jessica Pegula, who partnered Coco Gauff in their 6-1 6-4 defeat by Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia, said on Sunday she was left disappointed after organisers did not allow the finalists to address fans.
The men’s doubles finalists were allowed to do so following their match a day earlier and tournament organisers apologised to players and fans “who expect more of the Madrid Open”.
“We sincerely apologise to all the players and fans who expect more of the Mutua Madrid Open tournament,” tournament chief executive Gerard Tsobanian said.
“Not giving our women’s doubles finalists the chance to address their fans at the end of the match was unacceptable and we have apologised directly to Victoria, Beatriz, Coco and Jessica.”
Azarenka had said on Twitter that it was “hard to explain” to her son Leo why she was not able to speak at the ceremony.
“We are working internally and with the WTA to review our protocols and are committed to improving our process moving forward,” Tsobanian said.
“We made a mistake and this will not ever happen again.”
Ahead of this week’s Italian Open, Pegula said: “What happened in Madrid, it was really disappointing. I had a feeling something was going to happen. Did I think we were not going to be able to speak? No.
“I’ve never heard of that…in my life. I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision – 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 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.”
Gauff added: “I have a lot of finals, so it’s not about that. It’s more about the principle behind it, so this can’t happen again for future girls, take the opportunity away from them.”
Sexism row hits tournament
The tournament has been beset by accusations of sexism outside the controversy around speeches.
Ball girls for the men’s final on Sunday wore different outfits to earlier in the tournament following complaints about the crop tops and short skirts they were wearing, with the ball boys in the women’s matches wearing polo shirts and baggier shorts.
The size of birthday cakes presented to players was cited as another example of how male and female players were treated differently at the Madrid Open too.
Eventual men’s champion Carlos Alcaraz was presented with a three-tier cake to celebrate his 20th birthday following his semi-final win on the Friday.
World No 2 and women’s singles champion Aryna Sabalenka, however, was given a single-tier cake after turning 25 on the same day when she did not have a match.
The Madrid Open offers equal prize money across both ATP and WTA events, with singles champions taking home just over £1m and doubles champions sharing £330,000. Pegula and Gauff shared £176,000 as doubles runners-up.