Madrid Open caught up in ‘sexism’ storm over ball girl outfits

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The Madrid Open has been slammed for its uniform for ball girls as their “sexist” outfits are set to be the subject of a complaint by Spain’s Association for Women in Professional Sport. The girls have worn cropped tops, pleated skirts and socks while the boys have been wearing standard shorts and t-shirts.

A spokesperson for the association Pilar Calvo told Publico: “It’s a way of feminising 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.”

Organisers have been using all-female ball crews during Carlos Alcaraz matches and supporters have claimed that matches on centre court are the only ones using the uniforms that are the subject of the forthcoming complaint. The tournament and sponsor Mutua Madrilena have organised a campaign against gender violence, but Calvo believes the message is damaged due to the ball girls’ outfits.

The news comes at a time when the sport has attempted to make tennis more inclusive. This year, Wimbledon announced that women’s players will be able to wear coloured undershorts underneath the all-white attire for the first time, to accommodate those on their period.

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It is not the first time that the event has come in for criticism because, in 2004, the then-Madrid Masters hired female models as ball girls while dressing them in revealing outfits. Andre Agassi said at the time that “it was difficult, to say the least, to concentrate on the ball. But I suppose I had an advantage, I’m used to playing with my wife.”

While Marat Safin, the winner of the 2004 tournament, said it was publicity for the sport regardless if it was bad or good. “The models mean people are still talking about tennis. Good publicity, bad publicity. It doesn’t matter,” he claimed.

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@itslizasworld Has anyone noticed the ball kids at the Madrid Open?  It seems they have two different types of ball crews: The sexy crew and the kids. . .  I’ve spotted that the Madrid Open features an all female ball crew for some mens matches and an all mens crew for some womens matches. They’re wearing a different uniform to the other, more younger looking ball crews used in other matches.How is the Madrid Open deciding which matches get these “upgraded” crews? It appears its the show court headline matches that feature these ‘more attractive’ ball kids.I won’t lie, I find it a little strange. Traditionally, this is a role for young kids. We don’t really see this strategy at any other tournament. I find it a bit unnecessary and honestly when I spotted it I found it a bit distracting myself!In my opinion, let the tennis do the talking at the tournament and keep everything else out of the limelight.What do you [email protected] #madridopen #ballgirl #ballgirls #tennis #tennistournament #tennisplayer #tennistiktok #tennisvideo #tennisnews #tenniscommentary ♬ original sound – lizzy

At the time Soledad Murillo, the Spanish secretary of state for equality, said the ball girls’ attire and selection “fomented clear discrimination towards women who appear as simple objects of decoration and amusement” and when asked why the decision was made, replied: “Because it is men who make the decisions on uniforms.”

The tournament has also been criticised for the size of cakes handed to Alcaraz and Aryna Sablenka, as the pair celebrated their birthdays on May 5. The Spaniard was handed a large multi-tiered cake, while Sabalenka was presented with a much smaller cake by comparison.

Her compatriot Victoria Azarenka weighed in on the debate, as she took to Twitter and said: “Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment,” in response to a comparison photo of the two cakes. 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu also wrote: “That doesn’t look right.”

The Madrid Open and tournament organiser IMG have been contacted by Express Sport for comment.

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