No sport for women: Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova censure secondary treatment of female players in Brisbane
The scheduling of the women's matches of the Brisbane International, currently underway at the Queensland Tennis Centre, has come under scrutiny after top female players were forced to play on the outside courts to accommodate men's matches from the ATP Cup, which was simultaneously taking place at the facility.
Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens was among the first of the top WTA athletes to critique the organisers for the unfair and disrespectful treatment meted out to the women players.
"Obviously I understand [the ATP Cup] a huge event and they might not have any options, [but] at the same time [...] girls in the Top 10 that are playing here, and they're all playing on side courts, it's not the greatest look," Stephens, who is also a member of the WTA Council, was quoted saying on the sidelines of the event
It is worth noting that the Brisbane International is the first premiere level tournament of the year, and a regular feature of the WTA calendar. The ATP Cup (a team tournament for the men's tour), however, is a new addition and is being held in the facility for the first time.
Despite that, all WTA matches for the first two days of the tournament were scheduled to be played out on the outside courts, even for the likes of home players like Barty and Samantha Stosur.
Sharapova also echoed Stephens' concerns regarding the scheduling and the second hand treatment of the women's matches, but was more measured in her critique.
"I'm not sure (but) I heard that because the way that the court is constructed, that it's not regulation for us to be playing on centre court with the benches on the side," she said, while adding that it was still a "strange" move from the organisers.
"I think there's a lot of girls deserving of that centre court spot in this draw," -Maria Sharapova, echoing Stephens' views.
Stephens was also quick to point out that it's not the first time that the women's matches were relegated to secondary status in favour of the men.
"I think it's kind of a respect thing. We just weren't in the conversation to even be considered. It was what the ATP wanted, they got what they wanted, girls on the side. that's kind of how it always it," added the former Grand Slam champion.
Nonetheless, Stephens expressed hope for things to take a turn for the better in the coming years, and for organisers to be better equipped to deal with similar situations.
"I think it's unfortunate, but we play and we do what we do and hopefully next year there will be some adjustment," Stephens added to rest her argument.