Home News French Open: Women’s tennis needs more rivalries, says Sue Barker

French Open: Women’s tennis needs more rivalries, says Sue Barker

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Aryna Sabalenka, the world number two, emerged victorious over American Sloane Stephens in the sole women’s singles night-session match of this year’s French Open tournament.

French Open 2023
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris
Dates: 28 May-11 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentaries of selected matches across BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, the Sport News Center website, and app

Amidst the ongoing scheduling controversy at the French Open, Sue Barker asserts that women’s tennis requires greater rivalries to generate more interest in the sport.

Criticism has been directed towards tournament organizers for featuring only one women’s draw match during the ten night sessions at Roland Garros.

American player Jessica Pegula expressed her disappointment with the situation, and the former French Open champion, Barker, aged 67, acknowledges the challenging position faced by tournament director Amelie Mauresmo.

The night-session match is promoted as the highlight of the day, and this year’s tournament witnessed only one night match, Aryna Sabalenka’s fourth-round contest against Sloane Stephens last Sunday. Last year, just one of the ten night matches included female players.

Mauresmo, a former world number one, argued that the men’s matches possessed greater “appeal” and that it was difficult to find enough stars or compelling matchups in the women’s draw. However, her comments were deemed “disappointing and surprising” by world number one Iga Swiatek, and Mauresmo subsequently issued an apology.

The final on Saturday will feature Poland’s Swiatek defending her title against Czech outsider Karolina Muchova, who is ranked 43rd in the world.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, Barker, a former BBC presenter, explained the dilemma faced by the tournament director: “It’s a slight dilemma for a tournament director with the men’s game being best of five sets and the women’s being best of three. If you do schedule a match for the night session and it only lasts an hour, because some of the women’s matches only last an hour, then the public isn’t going to like it. It’s a very difficult, tricky situation for Amelie [Mauresmo] to be in. And sadly, now with Serena [Williams] having gone, there aren’t the big names in the women’s game at the moment. They’ve got to build up.”

Barker emphasized the need for established players who can create a lasting rivalry, akin to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. She noted the relative lack of recognition for players like Elena Rybakina, the previous year’s Wimbledon champion, and stressed the importance of having more well-known players on par with the likes of Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams.

In contrast to the Australian Open and the US Open, which schedule two night-session matches daily, the French Open only schedules one.

In March, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon stressed the importance of having women’s matches during night sessions at all tournaments in the quest for equal prize money throughout the year.

Barker expressed satisfaction with Wimbledon’s decision to schedule three matches on center court, including both men’s and women’s matches. She acknowledged the complexities faced by Mauresmo but reiterated the need for equality across all tournaments, emphasizing that players also need to contribute to achieving this goal.

Live scores, results, and order of play can be found on the French Open’s official website.

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TennisFan4Ever June 9, 2023 - 4:22 pm

Sue Barker’s got a point, women’s tennis needs more rivalries to get fans excited! Scheduling controversy at the French Open is a bummer, only one women’s match at night? Not cool. Amelie Mauresmo’s in a tough spot, I feel for her. We need some big names in women’s tennis to step up and create that intense rivalry, like Federer vs. Nadal. Let’s build up the game and give it the attention it deserves!

LoveTheGame June 9, 2023 - 4:22 pm

It’s a shame that the French Open organizers haven’t prioritized women’s matches during the night sessions. Women’s tennis deserves equal opportunities and exposure. I hope they listen to the calls for more equality and give the amazing female athletes the spotlight they deserve. Let’s support the players and push for change!

SportsEnthusiast87 June 9, 2023 - 4:22 pm

Kudos to Sue Barker for speaking up about the lack of rivalries in women’s tennis. It’s true, without those epic matchups, the sport can struggle to grab attention. Amelie Mauresmo’s caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to balance the different formats and audience expectations. But hey, let’s not forget the potential stars out there, like Elena Rybakina. With time, they’ll gain recognition and help elevate the sport to new heights!

TennisJunkie22 June 9, 2023 - 4:22 pm

Seriously disappointed with the French Open’s decision to prioritize men’s matches during night sessions. Women’s tennis has incredible talent and deserves equal treatment. We need more big names and fierce rivalries to captivate fans. Let’s work towards fairness and equality in all tournaments, and give women’s tennis the recognition it deserves. Keep fighting, ladies!


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