International Sports

Madrid Open Attracts Controversy

Nadia Liu
Public Relations Manager
The Madrid Open, one of the biggest non-Slam tennis tournaments, has attracted controversy regarding sexist policies and actions. In an incident fans are calling “Cakegate,” tournament organizers gifted World No. 2s Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka birthday cakes to commemorate their shared birthday, May 5. However, as Twitter user @slaylorfritz pointed out in a now-viral tweet, Alcaraz’s cake was significantly larger than Sabalenka’s. The tweet read, “The difference in cake size is astounding.” Victoria Azarenka, former World No. 1, retweeted this, adding, “Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment.”
The tournament faced further scrutiny when players criticized Madrid Open organizers for not allowing women’s doubles finalists to make speeches during their trophy presentation. While all the finalists in the singles and men’s doubles addressed the crowd after their matches, women’s doubles finalists Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Azarenka did not. 29-year-old American Pegula commented, “I’ve never heard in my life we wouldn’t be able to speak. It was really disappointing. In a $10,000 final you would speak. It spoke for itself. We were upset when it happened and [when we were] told during the trophy ceremony we weren’t able to speak. It kind of proved a point.”
Azarenka and Gauff both tweeted about the incident. Azarenka said that it was “hard to explain” to her young son why she was not able to address him in a victory speech, and Gauff wrote, “Twitter format doesn’t allow me to say everything I would’ve said during the speech if we had one.” Mutua Madrid Open CEO Gerard Tsobanian issued an apology on behalf of the tournament, writing, “Not giving our women’s doubles finalists the chance to address their fans at the end of the match was unacceptable, and we have apologized directly to Victoria, Beatriz, Coco and Jessica. We are working internally and with the WTA [Women’s Tennis Association] to review our protocols and are committed to improving our process moving forward. We made a mistake and this will not ever happen again.”
Madrid Open organizers were also criticized for dressing the ball girls on the main court in short skirts and crop tops. The event assigned an all-female ball team wearing revealing outfits to men’s matches, a move that Spain’s secretary of state for equality, Soledad Murillo, repudiated as fomenting “clear discrimination towards women.” Pilar Calvino, a spokesperson for the Spanish Association for Women in Profession Sport, also urged the tournament to change its policy: “It’s a way of feminizing 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.” Following public outrage, tournament organizers changed the outfits for the men’s final, keeping the crop tops, but swapping out the short skirts for three-quarter-length shorts.

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