Madrid Open ‘ball girls’ outfits spark sexism row
The Madrid Open has been accused of sexism for dressing its ‘ball girls’ in revealing and “feminising” outfits, amid further controversy surrounding the unequal treatment of women players at the tournament.
The event assigned all-female ball crews to men’s matches played on the grandstand court, with the uniforms featuring short, pleated skirts and crop tops, while younger girls and boys wore more traditional attire when stationed on the outside courts.
The outfits were changed following criticism from Spain’s secretary of state for equality, Soledad Murillo, who said that the uniforms worn by the ball girls on the main court "fomented clear discrimination towards women”.
A spokesperson for the Spanish Association for Women in Professional Sport, Pilar Calvino, had also urged the Madrid Open to change its policy and said of the dress code: "It’s a way of feminising girls with respect to boys who don’t dress in the same way. Ultimately, it’s a form of sexist violence that is so widespread that people don’t even notice it."
The outfits were changed for Sunday’s final between Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz and Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, with the ball girls instead wearing three-quarter-length skirts as they worked the match.
The Madrid Open had been previously criticised for hiring models as their ball girls at the 2004 tournament.
The latest controversy was one of several incidents at the tournament this past fortnight that have also seen the Madrid Open accused of sexism.
Also on Sunday, the players in the women’s doubles final were not given the chance to speak to the crowd during the trophy presentation, prompting a furious reaction from Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka, who triumphed alongside Beatriz Haddad Maia against the American pair Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, tweeted: “Hard to explain to [six-year-old son] Leo that mommy isn’t able to say hello to him at the trophy ceremony”.
After Gauff tweeted: “Wasn’t given the chance to speak after the final today,” Pegula replied with a ‘zipped lips’ emoji.
The incident was criticised by Ons Jabeur - last year’s Madrid Open women’s singles winner - who said: “So unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents. This is sad and unacceptable.”
Azarenka had also been critical of the “astounding” differences in birthday cakes presented to Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka - who defeated Iga Swiatek in this year’s women’s singles final.
While Alcaraz was given a giant three-tier cake on court after reaching the Madrid Open final, Sabalenka received a much smaller cake off court.
Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment https://t.co/x89RytI0zV
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 5, 2023
Azarenka commented: “Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment” - but tournament director Feliciano Lopez defended the presentation and said he was “surprised by the reaction”.
Lopez pointed to another cake similar in size that was given to Holger Rune and said: “1. Carlos had just won his match to reach the final. 2. He was playing on centre court. 3. The tournament is played in Spain, even though it is an international event. PS: I hope Rune wasn’t also upset.”