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Women's matches less appealing than men's at French Open, says tournament director

Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one, said it was ‘tough’ to schedule women’s matches for the prime night session slots.

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FRENCH OPEN TOURNAMENT director Amelie Mauresmo said Wednesday that women’s matches had less appeal than men’s at Roland Garros, an opinion dismissed as “surprising and disappointing” by world number one Iga Swiatek.

Of the 10 night sessions at this year’s tournament, only one has featured a women’s tie when home player Alize Cornet faced Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

“In this era that we are in right now, and as a woman, a former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying you have more attraction, more attractivity – can you say that? Appeal? – for the men’s matches,” said Mauresmo, a former world number one and a two-time Grand Slam champion.

“My goal when I was doing the schedule every day was to try and see a match in the women’s draw that I can put there.

“Honestly, it was tough. It was tough for more than one night to find the match of the day.”

Swiatek, the 2020 champion in Paris, who has played all her matches in the day this year, took Mauresmo to task, saying that the women’s game has plenty of positives.

“It is a little bit disappointing and surprising,” said the 21-year-Pole after making the semi-finals on Wednesday.

“I want my tennis to be entertainment and I remember that I also play for people. Women’s tennis has a lot of advantages.

“Some may say that it’s unpredictable and girls are not consistent. But on the other hand it may also be something that is really appealing and it may really attract more people.”

The WTA said the “depth of talent we are currently witnessing in the sport is incredible” and called for a balanced match schedule.

- ‘Room for improvement’ -

“Our fans want to see the excitement and thrill of women’s tennis on the biggest stages and in the premium time slots. There is certainly room for improvement,” the WTA said in a statement to AFP.

Mauresmo, in her first year as French Open tournament director, was responding to questions over the suitability of Roland Garros night sessions which were introduced last year as part of a new broadcast deal.

Rafael Nadal’s epic quarter-final victory over Novak Djokovic, one of the nine late matches selected, finished at 1:15am on Wednesday under the lights of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Meanwhile 18 out of 20 singles matches scheduled first on Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen have been women’s ties.

First up on Wednesday at noon was the quarter-final between Daria Kasatkina and fellow Russian Veronika Kudermetova, played out in front of rows and rows of empty seats.

“Well it’s Wednesday, 12 o’clock. I’m not expecting everyone to come and the stadium to be full the first match of the day. So, I mean that’s fine,” said Kasatkina after her straight sets win.

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The status of women’s tennis in Paris also became a hot topic in 2019 when the semi-finals were played on Court Suzanne Lenglen and Court Simonne-Mathieu.

The men’s semis, however, between Roger Federer and Nadal and Djokovic’s clash with Dominic Thiem, took place on the showpiece 15,000-seat Court Philippe Chatrier.

“We are extremely disappointed by the scheduling of both women’s semi-finals on outside courts,” said WTA chief executive Steve Simon at the time.

– © AFP 2022 

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