Tennis tournament Madrid Open under fire this year for sexism

by Lorraine Williamson
Mutua Madrid Open - tennis tournament

One of the most prestigious tennis tournaments outside the four Grand Slams, is the Madrid Open. The tournament attracts the biggest names in the sport. However, this year’s edition caused controversy both off court and on the gravel. This was reported by CNN’s Spanish-language site. 

During the Masters 1000 event, which ended this weekend with Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka as men’s and women’s singles champions respectively, the organisers were criticised for the way the ball girls were dressed on the main court: in tops and short skirts. In response to the criticism, the girls traded in their skirts for long shorts in Sunday’s final, but the crop tops remained. 

‘This is still the standard to treat girls compared to boys who do not dress like this, Pilar Calvo, spokeswoman for the Association of Women in Professional Sport, told Spanish media Público. ‘In the end, it is a form of macho violence that is so widespread because people don’t even realise it’. 

The Madrid Open and IMG – the tournament is part of the sports management company’s roster of tennis events – could not be reached for comment when contacted by CNN Sport. 

Ceremony also criticised 

The criticism of sexism did not stop there, however, as players in Sunday’s women’s doubles final accused the organisers of not letting them speak after the match. Neither the female winners, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Victoria Azarenka, nor the losers, American pair Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff, held a vote of thanks. 

‘I didn’t get a chance to speak after today’s final,’ Gauff tweeted disappointedly, while Azarenka added that it was difficult to explain to Leo (her infant son) that ‘mummy can’t greet him’ at the awards ceremony. 

‘I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision,’ Pegula added, according to the BBC. Or whether they had a conversation and thought, ‘Wow, this is a great decision and there will be no resistance’. 

Cogesa Expats

Following the comments, Mutua Madrid Open CEO, Gerard Tsobanian took to social media to apologise. However, the moments when it mattered had already passed.


World number 7 and last year’s winner Ons Jabeur called it sad and unacceptable, and former Grand Slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs called it a disgrace. 

That was the second time Azarenka criticised tournament organisers during this year’s Madrid Open, after a fan posted two pictures on Twitter showing the difference in size of the cakes given to Alcaraz and Sabalenka, whose birthdays are on 5 May. Azarenka responded to the tweet, saying: ‘I couldn’t be more precise about the treatment’. 

This led to a reaction from tournament director Feliciano Lopez, former world number 12 and seven-time ATP winner, who said he was surprised by this reaction after this gesture. 

According to Lopez, the reason why Alcaraz received a multi-storied cake and Sabalenka a single-storied cake was because the Spanish tennis player had just reached the final, was playing on the main court and was the favourite. Lopez was also not immediately available for comment when CNN Sport contacted him. 

Also read: Women´s race in Madrid accused of giving sexists gifts

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