French Open director Amelie Mauresmo: Women’s matches are less compelling

French Open director Amelie Mauresmo: Women’s matches are less compelling

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PARIS — For 30 weeks in 2006, Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo was ranked No. 1 in the world, a champion of that year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.

But in her first year as the French Open’s tournament director, Mauresmo has not proved to be the champion of women’s tennis that many expected.

During a news conference at Roland Garros Wednesday morning, Mauresmo, 42, defended her decision to schedule only one women’s match (compared to nine for men) for the night sessions that are new this year, saying that she found women’s tennis currently less attractive and less appealing than men’s.

“In this era that we are in right now, I don’t feel — and as a woman, former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying that right now you have more attraction, more attractivity — can you say that? Appeal? — for the men’s matches,” Mauresmo said, asked about the gender imbalance in the scheduling of the feature night match on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

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Mauresmo, who retired from the pro tour in 2009, went on to explain that when she was planning the daily schedule for the 15-day Grand Slam event, she looked for women’s matches most days that she felt had star power and appeal to ticket-buyers and broadcasters alike.

“I admit it was tough,” Mauresmo said.

“My goal was when I was doing the schedule every day to try and see, and from the first rounds, from the first round, when the draw came out, to try and see what match in the woman’s draw can I put there, honestly,” she said. “The confrontation or the star that I could put there. You know, you have all those parameters.”

The lone women’s match Mauresmo chose for the featured night session, which is scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m. local time, was a second-round clash between veteran French player Alizé Cornet and 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“It was tough for more than one night to find, as you say, the match of the day,” Mauresmo said. “ When you have this — it’s an interesting one, because as I was saying, the fact that it’s right now a one-match night session is tough on this. It is tough.”

Mauresmo was named director of Roland Garros by the French Tennis Federaton in December 2021. Her contract runs through the 2024 French Open.

She is the second woman to take the reins of one of the sport’s four Grand Slams. The U.S. Open named Stacey Allaster its first female tournament director in June 2020. Mauresmo also expanded women’s roles in tennis as coach of former No. 1 Andy Murray for a time.

The schedule issue at this year’s French Open has become a significant point of contention for players and fans alike.

Tuesday’s highly anticipated quarterfinal between 13-time French Open champion and top-ranked, defending champion Novak Djokovic didn’t start until 9 p.m. in Paris. That was its scheduled start time, to accommodate the requests of broadcasters, rather than an unscripted, delayed start forced by earlier matches running late.

With men’s Grand Slam matches contested in the best-of-five-set format, they can easily last more than four hours, as did Nadal’s four-set victory, which he closed in a tiebreaker after four hours, 12 minutes.

Women’s tennis has seen an exodus of top names in the past 12 months.

Serena Williams, the sport’s 23-time Grand Slam champion, hasn’t competed in 11 months, not since her first-round loss at Wimbledon last year. Now 40, she has yet to announce plans for her return to the game.

In March, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, a three-time Grand Slam champion, shocked the sport with her abrupt retirement, at age 25, just months after winning the Australian Open.

Mauresmo’s 16-year pro career (1993-2009) overlapped that of many of the women’s game’s most marketable stars in recent decades, including Venus and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

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