Alize Cornet. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images/AFP
Alize Cornet. Picture: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images/AFP

‘Topless’ female player sparks rule change

US Open chiefs said they were wrong to sanction French player Alize Cornet for removing her shirt on court, an incident which saw the tournament accused of sexism and double standards.

Cornet slipped off her shirt, revealing a black sports bra, after realising she had put it on back-to-front while off court during a 10 minute heat break before the third set of her first round defeat against Sweden's Johanna Larsson.

However, there was a storm of criticism for umpire Christian Rask's decision to issue a code violation to 28-year-old Cornet while male players were free to change shirts on court to combat Tuesday's 38C heat.

"All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a code violation," said organisers in a statement issued Wednesday.

"We regret that a code violation was assessed to Ms. Cornet yesterday. We have clarified the policy to ensure this will not happen moving forward. Fortunately, she was only assessed a warning with no further penalty or fine.

"Female players, if they choose, may also change their shirts in a more private location close to the court, when available. They will not be assessed a bathroom break in this circumstance."

The tournament was blasted for double standards over the incident, especially as it came just days after the French Open said it would ban Serena Williams from wearing her Black Panther bodysuit again at Roland Garros.

Alize Cornet takes her top off at the US Open
Alize Cornet takes her top off at the US Open

"Alize Cornet came back to court after 10 minute heat break. Had her fresh shirt on back to front. Changed at back of court. Got a code violation. Unsportsmanlike conduct..... But the men can change shirts on court," tweeted Judy Murray, the mother of former world number one Andy Murray and a leading coach and respected voice in the sport.

Cornet added her voice at a press conference on Thursday (AEST), but was more concerned about the treatment of Williams by her own federation than her experience in New York.

"You have people like the president of my federation who lives in another time," she said. "What Bernard Giudicelli said about Serena Williams' catsuit was 1000 times worse than what happened to me yesterday."

 

The WTA said the code violation "was unfair and not based on a WTA rule, as the WTA has no rule against a change of attire on court".

A spokeswoman added: "The WTA has always been and always will be a pioneer for women and women's sports. This code violation came under the Grand Slam rules and we are pleased to see the USTA has now changed this policy. Alize did nothing wrong."

Former world number one and two-timer major winner Victoria Azarenka said she was pleased the USTA had apologised.

But she believes there remain serious issues over how men and women are treated on tour.

"If I would say my true feelings, it would be bleeped out, because it was ridiculous. It wasn't anything disrespectful," said the Belarusian after reaching the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Daria Gavrilova.

"Things and issues like this need to stop at the beginning. It cannot develop anymore. It's enough. You know, the things with the cat suit, I personally don't understand it. No idea what it means disrespecting the game playing in the cat suit? There is always a double standard for men and women."

Many on social media were quick to point out that just a few hours after the Cornet incident, Wimbledon champion and two-time US Open winner Novak Djokovic sat courtside on Arthur Ashe Stadium with his shirt removed and with an ice towel draped around his shoulders.

Last week, French tennis federation (FFT) president Bernard Giudicelli sparked claims of sexism when he banned Williams's black body suit from next year's Roland Garros.

"You have to respect the game and the place," said Giudicelli who added there will be "certain limits" on clothing for the 2019 French Open.



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