Controversial treatment of women at Madrid Open: Ball girl drama, birthday cake-gate, and silent trophy ceremony


The 2023 Mutua Madrid Open recently came under fire for a series of decisions that left tennis fans outraged. From replacing ball kids with model ball girls in revealing outfits for male matches to giving a smaller birthday cake to WTA player Aryna Sabalenka compared to her male colleague Carlos Alcaraz, the tournament’s actions sparked a lot of debate.

One of the most controversial decisions was to have an all-female ball girl crew dressed in mini skirts on the main court, while both boys and girls wore much more conservative outfits on the outside courts. The tournament received a lot of backlash for this move, with fans calling it disgusting. The organizers tried to do damage control by changing the ball women’s attire from skirts to three-quarter pants in the men’s final.

Before the men’s final, there were two more scandals. On the day before the women’s final, eventual Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka celebrated her 25th birthday and was given a regular-sized cake by the tournament. However, Spanish world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz, who celebrated his birthday on the same day, received a giant, multi-story cake, making Sabalenka’s present look small and insignificant. This caused an uproar among tennis fans, who nicknamed the incident “cake-gate.”

Furthermore, the Madrid Open women’s doubles champions and runner-ups were not given the opportunity to speak after their final. Victoria Azarenka, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula were all left wondering why they weren’t allowed to address the crowd. Gauff expressed her discomfort on Twitter, sharing a sad emoji and saying: “Wasn’t given the chance to speak after the final.” Her doubles partner Pegula retweeted her statement and added a lips zipped emoji. Azarenka also didn’t stay silent and revealed that she found it difficult to explain to her son Leo why she couldn’t say hello to him during the trophy ceremony.

The tournament’s actions have been widely criticized for their lack of respect for women. The decisions made by the organizers sparked outrage among tennis fans and are a stark reminder that gender equality still has a long way to go in sports.


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