PARIS (AP) — The French Open introduced night sessions in Court Philippe Chatrier this year, featuring one highly ranked player each day, and there has been quite a disparity so far: Through Sunday, six of the seven contests scheduled for the spotlight involved men.
Just one of those Week 1 showcases was a women’s match, with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.
“What concerns me is when somebody from the French (tennis) federation is continually trying to say there is equality, and only pointing to prize money, which is true. Everything else, I wouldn’t even agree for a little with that. And that’s disappointing,” former No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka said Sunday.
“If you follow tennis, you know what I’m talking about,” Azarenka said after losing at Chatrier in the fourth round against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Hours later, Monday’s order of play was revealed, and it included a second women’s night session match: 2020 champion Iga Swiatek vs. Marta Kostyuk.
Azarenka reminded everyone that the 2019 French Open women’s semifinals were moved away from Chatrier after rain prompted the tournament to make changes — a switch criticized at the time by women’s tennis tour CEO Steve Simon as “unfair and inappropriate.”
Normally, all French Open singles semifinals are held in the main stadium, with the women on Thursday and men on Friday. But two years ago, after a full day of play was washed out, the women’s semifinals were held simultaneously at the second- and third-biggest courts at Roland Garros.
Azarenka said it would be a “step forward” if she were asked whether she would like to play at night.
Aside from Williams, the night session slots over the tournament’s initial week went to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and, on Sunday, Alexander Zverev.
Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev have never won a Grand Slam title.
“I mean, I accept it that we will probably never really be sort of equal in terms of television and popularity, maybe,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I don’t know if I should really waste my energy and time fighting over this, because right now, I mean, I’m doing my job, I want to win matches.”
DOUBLE THE EFFORT
Defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek spent her day off from singles playing a wild doubles match that lasted three hours and required her team to save seven match points.
Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands overcame a 5-1 deficit in the final set — and all of those match points — to beat the No. 1-seeded team, Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
When it ended, Swiatek and Mattek-Sands shared an exuberant hug. Swiatek will return to her pursuit of another singles title Monday when she faces Marta Kostyuk.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was a lot younger the last time she played in the quarterfinals at the French Open.
In fact, she says, she was too young.
That was 10 years ago, when Pavlyuchenkova was a rising star at 19.
“When I was actually playing the quarterfinal, I was so emotional,” she said. “I will never forget that match. I was just so in the emotions — I was like everywhere. I was too young. I didn’t know how to handle it.”
Pavlyuchenkova lost that match to Francesca Schiavone, and a decade later has another chance. The Russian rallied past 2013 semifinalist Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday. On Tuesday, she has a chance to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in her 15-year career; her opponent will be Elena Rybakina, who beat Serena Willams 6-3, 7-5 on Sunday and just so happens to be Pavlyuchenkova’s doubles partner.
Pavlyuchenkova was a Top 20 player as a teen and is now ranked 32nd, and she has been in quarterfinals at three of the four majors. But for long stretches Pavlyuchenkova didn’t enjoy the game, she said, and because consistency and confidence were so elusive, she considered quitting.
“I was always down on myself, thinking, OK, what’s the point really to continue playing like this?” she said. “Now I’m more mature. I hope I show smarter tennis, more consistent. I feel quite fit, as well. I’m enjoying it much more than before.”
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