Women tennis players are constantly battling for equal treatment at major tournaments, be it matching prize money, prime-time slots on the match schedule, having their games scheduled on the “show courts”, and even comforts in the locker-room.
Yet they could never have imagined that gender-bias would extend to a woman being administered a code warning for merely readjusting the shirt she had worn incorrectly after a heat-break. But that is precisely what French star Alize Cornet was subjected to at Flushing Meadows during the US Open.
Though the US Tennis Association subsequently held the action of the Chair Umpire to be incorrect and apologised, festering wounds have been reopened and once again the question arises if the Players’ Association ~ there are separate bodies for the men and women ~ should have greater say in the running of the Grand Slams etc.
Limiting the number of games in a set that progresses beyond six-all is another ticklish issue, so too the suspension of play (mainly in New York and Melbourne) when the temperature rises above a certain mark. At present heat merits only a short “time-out”: the system was introduced at the Australian Open and the US Open adopted it this season.
It was one of those heat breaks that resulted in Alize facing the heat from the Chair Umpire. In her anxiety to return to court within the prescribed time-limit she erred when donning a fresh shirt ~ she put in on “back-to-front”.
That was pointed out by the spectators, so after the game she went behind the base line, took off the shirt and re-wore it correctly. It was a mission accomplished in a matter of moments, but the Umpire was irked enough to issue her a code warning.
Alize indicated displeasure, but continued the match ~ which she lost. Yet the “sister act” ~ rightly ~ came into play and coplayers and women administrators, including Victoria Azarenka flayed the action. Former British captain Judy Murray (Andy’s mother) also joined the protest.
The move also provoked recall of a decision of the French Open authorities to ban the black cat-suit sometimes favoured by Serena Williams. What clearly had the women livid was that male players frequently change shirts during the break between games.
It has been so hot at Flushing Meadows that Novak Djokovic has cooled off during the breaks, his upper body partially covered only by the ice-collar draped around his neck: bare-chested men are acceptable but not women who are even momentarily shirtless.
What is surprising is that this happened in the Big Apple where scantily clad women can be seen even in the supermarket on a hot day. And it says a lot about the Chair Umpire. Most blokes would have relished the “peep show”, this prude had a bird’s eye view ~ and lost his shirt.