Top women’s players responded Wednesday to comments made by French Open director Amelie Mauresmo, who said women’s tennis is less attractive and appealing than the men’s game.
Iga Swiatek, who is ranked No. 1 in the world and riding a 34-match win streak into the final at Roland-Garros, spoke ahead of her semifinal match.
“I think women’s tennis has a lot of advantages,” she said. “Some may say [that] it’s unpredictable and girls are not consistent. But on the other hand, it may also be something that … may really attract more people. … For sure I want to entertain, and I also want to show my best tennis on every match. But, yeah, [Mauresmo’s remarks were] a little bit disappointing.”
Jessica Pegula, the No. 11 seed who will move into the top 10 following a career-best result at the French Open, said that Mauresmo’s comments are “not something you want to hear.”
“I think at the same time we need to have chances to have really good matches to show that it is a good product as well,” she added. On top of having a successful singles run at Roland-Garros, Pegula will play in the doubles semifinals with Coco Gauff on Friday.
“I feel like so many people love watching women’s tennis because, you know, we don’t have huge serves. We’re not acing,” Pegula said, pointing to the depth of women’s tennis as an asset. “There’s not a lot of super, super quick points. There’s more rallies. There’s more drama.”
This marks the first year that the French Open features night sessions. Of the 10 total sessions, just one has been a women’s match. Mauresmo defended her scheduling decisions by claiming that women’s tennis has less “appeal.”
Pam Shriver, a 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion, questioned why not one of Swiatek’s matches were chosen for the night session given her current record. Additionally, she called out the way that Mauresmo, a former No. 1 player herself, chose to defend her decision-making.
“Why did she have to insult women’s tennis?” Shriver asked. “It really hurts to have an alumni player, who’s now a tournament director, who made history as a female coach of a top men’s player [Andy Murray], really diss women’s tennis the way she did.
“This is a two-time major winner, someone who is in the Hall of Fame, who is crossing a line that is not acceptable. It was not necessary. Her words today were inexcusable for a leader.”
Mauresmo apologized for her comments while speaking to the Tennis Channel on Thursday.
“First of all, the comments that I made were taken out of the wider picture, out of the context, and I want to say sorry to the players that really felt bad about what I said,” she said.
Men’s matches received priority for the night sessions because women’s matches are shorter, Mauresmo said.
“Because we have one [night] match only it’s really tougher to schedule a woman’s match, because we have to take into consideration the length,” she said. “I feel it’s the fair kind of thing to do for the ticket holders.
“Next year, in order to be able to be more fair to the women players – to both categories actually – it would be good to maybe have the possibility to put on two matches, or maybe a women’s match plus a doubles match, to try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone.”