The Madrid Open concluded over the weekend and, wow, it’s tough to know where to begin with this one.
Aryna Sabalenka defeated Iga Swiatek 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, for the trophy in the latest chapter of their burgeoning rivalry, and Carlos Alcaraz won his second straight title on clay with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff. But with all due respect to those achievements, neither is the lasting memory from the event.
It can’t be sugarcoated: This tournament was messy.
The first controversy started when a TikTok user pointed out the tournament’s use of models in place of ball kids on Center Court — and the difference in their uniforms. Backlash ensued.
And then, another disparity was thrust into the spotlight Friday, the birthday of both of the eventual singles champions. Sabalenka and Alcaraz were each given cakes to celebrate the occasion, and they were not of equal size or grandeur, as pointed out by many. Victoria Azarenka even implied the cakes were indicative of the difference in treatment between male and female players at the event:
Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment https://t.co/x89RytI0zV
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) May 5, 2023
Tournament director Feliciano Lopez was quick to defend the difference in the cakes, reasoning that the event was in Alcaraz’s home country and that he had just played his match, but the #Cakegate damage was already done.
On Saturday, after Sabalenka won the title, she jokingly credited the cake for the victory during her on-court speech. And Swiatek took a brief moment during her speech to criticize the less-than-ideal scheduling she had dealt with during multiple matches in the tournament, including during the semifinals. “It’s not fun to play at 1 a.m., though, so I’m happy anyway that I was able to get past this experience and survive and be in the final,” Swiatek said as Lopez stood behind her.
Then, in Sunday’s doubles final, Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-4, for the title. But none of the four players was given an opportunity to speak during the trophy presentation. Because all four competitors had spoken following Saturday’s men’s doubles final, and there was a substantial amount of time before the start of the men’s singles final Sunday, there was no obvious reason for the snub. Azarenka and Gauff took to Twitter soon after to voice their displeasure and say what they would have said during the completely expected speech component of the…
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