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January 22, 2023

PARIS (AP) — Amélie Mauresmo, a former No. 1 player who is in her first year as the first women’s tournament director at Roland Garros, said on Wednesday that nine of the 10 night sessions at Roland Garros involved men’s matches because Women’s tennis currently has less “appeal.”

Speaking at the traditional week two press conference to recap the clay-court Grand Slam tournament, Mauresmo said she was trying daily to find a female pairing that had star power or a match worthy of be highlighted in the separate session which began at 8:45 p.m. local time at Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I admit it was difficult,” said Mauresmo, a 42-year-old Frenchman.

1-ranked woman Iga Swiatek said after her quarter-final win in Paris on Wednesday that she found Mauresmo’s comments “a bit disappointing and surprising”.

“It’s a bit of each person’s personal opinion whether they like men’s tennis more or women’s tennis or whether they like them equally, but I think women’s tennis has a lot of advantages,” said Swiatek, champion of Roland-Garros 2020, which has won 33 games in a row. “And some may say it’s unpredictable and the girls aren’t consistent. But on the other hand, it can also be something really attractive and it can really attract more people.

The woman Swiatek beat on Wednesday, 11th-seeded Jessica Pegula, called Mauresmo’s stance “not something you want to hear,” and noted that the best way to develop interest in any sport is “to have chances” to show how good the product is. .

“Of course, it’s always kind of disappointing to hear that’s her reasoning, being a female… Slam champion,” said Pegula, a New Yorker whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. and the Buffalo Sabers of the NHL. “But hopefully we can change that.”

She also offered a defense of her sport, which is currently missing the star power of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who hasn’t competed since suffering an injury at Wimbledon nearly a year ago. year.

“For me, I feel like so many people like to watch women’s tennis because we don’t have huge serves. We’re not good. There’s not a lot of super, super fast points “Pegula said. “There are more rallies. There is more drama.

This year’s French Open started on May 22 and will end on Sunday. The last of 10 nightly sessions was Wednesday’s men’s quarter-final between Casper Ruud and Holger Rune, and the only women’s match that was treated to prime time – as part of a deal with a streaming service – was was the victory of the Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet over Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

Asked about this decision-making process, Mauresmo said in French that having only one match in each night session made it “more difficult to have” a women’s match. Night sessions at the US Open, for example, usually include a women’s match and a men’s match.

“In this era that we’re in right now, I don’t think – and as a woman, a former women’s player, I don’t feel wrong or unfair to say this, right now – you have more… of allure,” Mauresmo said. “That’s the general (reason) for the men’s matches.”

She added: “My goal was, when I was doing the planning every day, to try to see, from the first round, when the draw came out… ‘what game in the women’s draw can I put in it. ?’ frankly.”

Mauresmo topped the WTA rankings for the first time in 2004 and returned to that spot after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006.

His last major tournament was the 2009 US Open. After retiring as a player, Mauresmo became a coach and worked with Andy Murray, Lucas Pouille and Marion Bartoli, among others, and captained France for the team competition now called the Billie Jean King Cup.

Mauresmo’s session with reporters took place the morning after 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal’s quarter-final victory over defending champion Novak Djokovic in Tuesday night’s session. The match lasted 4 hours 12 minutes and ended after 1 a.m., leaving some of the approximately 15,000 spectators unable to use public transport to get home.

“It’s actually a key issue that needs to be addressed, and it will be one of our priorities going forward,” Mauresmo said. “We haven’t planned anything yet, but obviously we have to organize ourselves differently with the DG Transport in Paris with the bus systems, with the metro. If we continue these night sessions in this way, people have to leave the stadium quite late and make sure they have a way to get home, as they should.

Nadal, through the media, and his manager, Carlos Costa, directly with Mauresmo, have made it clear that the owner of 21 Grand Slam titles prefers not to play at night, due to how the cooler temperatures affect his shots. He fell below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) in his quarter-final.

Asked about it, Mauresmo deflected the question and replied: “Rafa showed us what a great champion he is, way beyond all these considerations.”

Mauresmo said a full review of the entire tournament will be carried out after it ends, including taking into account changes to night sessions and other scheduling issues.


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