French Open: Mauresmo apologises for women's tennis 'appeal' comments

By Sports Desk June 02, 2022

French Open director Amelie Mauresmo has apologised for suggesting women's tennis lacks the "appeal" of the men's game after drawing the ire of world number one Iga Swiatek.

Mauresmo – herself a former two-time grand slam winner who made the French Open quarter-finals on two occasions – made the comments while discussing the lack of women's matches played during the night sessions at Roland Garros.

This is the first edition of the French Open to feature night sessions – but women's matches under the floodlights have been few and far between to date.

On Wednesday, Mauresmo suggested this was down to the men's game being more popular with spectators, saying: "In this era that we are in right now, I don't feel – and as a woman and former player, I don't feel bad or unfair saying that right now you have more attraction. Can you say that? Appeal? For the men's matches."

Those comments were labelled "disappointing and surprising" by top seed Swiatek, who will play teenager Coco Gauff in Saturday's final.

But Mauresmo has now apologised for the comment, telling the Tennis Channel: "I want to say sorry to the players that really felt bad about what I said.

"The comments that I made were taken out of the wider picture, out of the context. Because we have one match only, I feel that it's really tougher to schedule a women's match because we have to take into consideration the length [of the match]. I feel it's the fair kind of thing to do for the ticket holders.

"I think the people who know me, who've known me on and off the court, throughout my career, throughout everything that I've done, know that I'm a big fighter for equal rights and women's tennis, women in general."

The scheduling of night matches in the French capital has attracted other criticisms since the tournament began, with 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal claiming "it is too late, without a doubt" after his five-set quarter-final win over Novak Djokovic ended at 1:15am local time on Wednesday.

While the sessions will stay on the agenda at future editions, Mauresmo insists concerns over late finishing times, as well as the balance between men's and women's matches being showcased at favourable broadcast times, must be reviewed after the tournament.

"I feel that next year, in order to be able to be more fair to the women players, as well as to both categories actually, it would be good to maybe have the possibility to put two matches or maybe a women's match plus a doubles match," Mauresmo added.

"[We will] try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone. We tried to modernise the event. We tried to move forward, and I can see that there are some adjustments to be made, that's for sure. We're going to talk about it after the tournament."

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    Rafael Nadal is about to step out at Roland-Garros for the final time.

    The Spanish great - a 22-time grand slam champion – is set for his farewell appearance at the French Open, which he has won a record 14 times.

    It seems unlikely the soon-to-be 38-year-old will extend that record on Court Philippe-Chatrier over the coming two weeks, though of course you never know.

    Familiar foe Novak Djokovic goes in with better odds than Nadal, as the world number one aims to retain his crown.

    Yet, there is the new generation of superstars looking to take control, and on Nadal's farewell appearance at the tournament he has dominated, it would be fitting if the baton was handed over to Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner or another star of the next generation.

    Let's dive into the data ahead of the 2024 French Open.

    Rafa's last dance

    We couldn't start anywhere else. What an icon Nadal has been, especially at Roland-Garros, and you would be a brave punter to bet against anyone matching or bettering his haul of 14 titles in Paris.

    Nadal is one of two players to have won 10 men's singles titles at a single major, along with Djokovic at the Australian Open (10 titles).

    The Spaniard holds a 100 per cent winning record in the French Open final, while he has also taken the Roland-Garros crown on four occasions without dropping a single set (2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020).

    His tally of 112 matches won at the French Open is more than any other player has managed when it comes to match wins at a single major, seven ahead of Roger Federer's tally of 105 at Wimbledon.

    Indeed, Nadal's win percentage at Roland-Garros (97.4 per cent) is the best of any player at a single grand slam. He has only lost three of his 115 matches at the French Open and only two opponents have managed to beat him there – Djokovic (twice) and Robin Soderling.

    Nadal's best consecutive run of matches won at the French Open is 39, which is only bettered by Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon (41) and Federer in the US Open and Wimbledon (40 at each tournament) in the Open Era.

    Only Djokovic, Margaret Court (24 each) and Serena Williams (23) have won more major titles than Nadal, while only Djokovic and Federer have appeared in more grand slam men's singles finals than Nadal in the Open Era.

    Yet, if he is to dazzle the Paris crowd in one last dance at Roland-Garros, he is going to have to do it the hard way, having been drawn against world number four Alexander Zverev.

    The German is coming off the back of claiming his second Italian Open title, becoming the third player since 2000 to win that tournament on multiple occasions, after Nadal (10) and Djokovic (six).

    A good omen for Rafa, perhaps, is that he is the only player with over 10 wins against top-five opponents at Roland-Garros since the ATP Rankings were published in 1974, with 20 such victories.

    Should he make it beyond Zverev, Nadal could have a relatively kind run to the last 16, in which Holger Rune may be waiting. Daniil Medvedev or Alex de Minaur would be the quarter-final opponent before a potential semi against Djokovic, and a possible final against Nadal's heir apparent in Alcaraz.

    Nadal is not the only modern great who is set to make his farewell French Open appearance. Andy Murray has indicated he will retire in the coming months, too.

    Djokovic the defender

    The spotlight might be on Nadal, but Djokovic is the defending title and is out to make history, as he bids to surpass Court's record of 24 majors and become the outright leader for grand slam titles across men's and women's singles events.

    Aged 36 years and 20 days, Djokovic became the oldest winner of the men's singles at Roland-Garros in the Open Era when he triumphed last year. Djokovic is one of two players in the Open Era aged 35 or over to win the event, along with Nadal (2022).

    Since the start of the 2020 season, three players have registered 50 or more men’s singles match wins at grand slam events, with Djokovic leading the way (86), ahead of Medvedev (59) and Zverev (56). 

    Djokovic is out to become the second player in the Open Era to secure a major singles title after turning 37, along with Ken Rosewall at the Australian Open in 1972.

    In the event he reaches the quarter-final barring walkovers, Djokovic will surpass Federer (369) for the most men's singles match wins at grand slams in the Open Era. Djokovic is currently on 366. 

    At least one of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has made the men's singles final at Roland-Garros since 2005. Expect the three-time French Open champion to go on a deep run again.

    The contenders

    Alcaraz can't be discounted. The world number three has yet to reach a French Open final, but is the youngest player in the Open Era to reach the round of 16 at seven consecutive majors.

    Competing against the two-time grand slam champion is Sinner, who is now above Alcaraz in the ATP rankings.

    He is the player with the highest winning percentage so far in 2024 (93.3 per cent, 28-2), and is also only the second Italian in the Open Era to hold a top-three seed in the men's singles at Roland-Garros after Adriano Panatta (1977), who was defending champion that year.

    Zverev is in fine form, Medvedev is always dangerous and Casper Ruud is strong on clay.

    Only three unseeded players have won the men’s singles title at Roland-Garros in the Open Era – Mats Wilander (1982), Gustavo Kuerten (1997) and Gaston Gaudio (2004). Do not expect that to change this time around. 

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    The world number one's wait for his first silverware of 2024 continued following a semi-final defeat by Tomas Machac in Geneva on Friday.

    He also fell in the last four in Melbourne and Monte Carlo, while suffering a shock defeat at the hands of world number 123 Luca Nardi in the last 32 at Indian Wells.

    Therefore Djokovic, who split from long-term coach Goran Ivanisevic earlier in the campaign, can be forgiven for not being full of confidence ahead of his latest quest for a record-breaking 25th grand slam singles title at Roland Garros.

    "Of course, I am worried. I haven't been playing well at all this year," he said after his defeat to Machac.

    "It's not enjoyment when you are suffering on the court feeling this way. You're not able to focus on tennis when you have other stuff happening. I just hope I can be fit and ready and prepared for Roland Garros.

    "I don't want to take anything away from his win, he deserved it. I don't know what to think about this match, to be honest. I want to forget about it and move on to Paris.

    "It was good that I could come here and play more than one match. I played three. I just need to feel better."

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    A run to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros - without walkovers - would see him surpass Roger Federer for the most singles match wins at majors.

    Although, an early exit could see the 37-year-old surrender top spot in the ATP rankings, with world number two and reigning Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner breathing down his neck. 

    "[I've had] some [good] matches here and there, but it is what it is," he added. "You have to accept it. I don't consider myself a favourite there. I'm going to take it match by match and see how far I can go."

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    The duo have met twice in the finals of the past two WTA 1000 events, with Swiatek coming out on top on both occasions.

    Swiatek needed a third-set tie-breaker to win an epic Madrid Open final, though she got the job done in straight sets at the Italian Open, as the Pole made it eight wins to three from her 11 career contests with Sabalenka.

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    Sensational Swiatek hunts a treble

    Swiatek, who does not turn 23 until Friday, already has three French Open titles under her belt, having won in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

    The Pole is aiming to become the third player in the Open Era to win the women's singles title at Roland-Garros for three consecutive years, after Monica Seles (1990-92) and Justine Henin (2005-07).

    She is one of six players in the Open Era to have won the title without dropping a set, a feat she managed at the 2020 edition. The other players on that list are: Evonne Goolagong (1971), Billie Jean King (1972), Chris Evert (1974), Steffi Graf (1988), and Henin (2006-07).

    Margaret Court holds the best winning percentage in the women's singles at Roland-Garros in the Open Era, at 95.2 per cent. Among active players, with a minimum of 10 matches played, Swiatek (93.3 per cent) holds the highest winning percentage at the event.

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    Last year, Swiatek claimed a third women’s singles title at Roland-Garros from five appearances in the main draw at the event. In the Open Era, only Court (three out of four, 75 per cent) holds a better title win rate from main draws entered at the tournament.

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    "So, I think actually I'm more proud of what's happening right now, and winning all these titles this year already has shown that we are going on the right path."

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    In the event that Swiatek and second seed Sabalenka meet in the final, it will be the fifth clay-court meeting between the pair as the WTA’s number one and number two, surpassing Martina Navratilova and Evert for the most meetings on the surface in the past 40 years as the WTA’s top two-ranked players. 

    Given her recent misfortune against Swiatek, mind, Sabalenka will no doubt be hoping the reigning champion falters this time around, leaving her with a clearer run to glory.

    The Belarusian could become the first player to claim the women’s singles titles at the Australian Open and Roland-Garros in a calendar year since Williams in 2015.

    Sabalenka, who is the player with the most winners on clay in 2024 (447), has already reached four finals this season, only to come up short in three of them. Erika Andreeva is her first-round opponent.

    The other challengers

    It is not just Swiatek and Sabalenka that will be gunning for glory in Paris over the next fortnight.

    Coco Gauff is looking to become the youngest American woman to win the singles title at the French Open since Evert in 1975, while only Swiatek (36) has won more WTA main draw matches than Elena Rybakina in 2024 (30).

    World number three Gauff, who lost to Swiatek in the French Open final two years ago, could become the fourth player since 2000 to make multiple finals at Roland-Garros before turning 21, along with Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic and Swiatek.

    Meanwhile, either Rybakina or Marketa Vondrousova could become the fifth player since 2000 to win both Wimbledon and Roland-Garros, along with Ashleigh Barty, Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova and Williams. That's not bad company to be keeping.

    Having reached three grand slam finals across 2022 and 2023, Ons Jabeur has endured a frustrating season so far, dropping to world number nine just ahead of 2017 champion Ostapenko, heading into what promises to be an enthralling battle.

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