At Roland Garros,
When you wake up this Sunday morning, go and connect to Roland Garros website and you should find your happiness for one of the prestigious night sessions of the event, right in the Philippe-Chatrier court. Do not hesitate to thank us for the tip, because it is not a joke. During the night from Saturday to Sunday, we were able to see on Roland’s official resale ticket office that 419 places (from 75 to 430 euros) were still available for this Sunday’s night poster. How does such an opportunity arise on D-Day, when all of the French Grand Slam places sold out at lightning speed a few weeks ago?
The reason is easily guessed, by looking at the programming, which was unveiled Saturday afternoon: it will be the first match of the women’s table placed in the evening (from 8:15 p.m.) on the Philippe-Chatrier court. It is therefore necessary to believe that this round of 16 between the world number 2 Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens disappoints part of the public. And this even if the proportion of these few hundred seats sold is to be put into perspective in a stadium which can accommodate 15,000 spectators. When we mentioned this phenomenon of massive resale on Saturday during Olga Danilovic’s press conference, we quickly understood how sensitive the subject was.
The Gauff-Andreeva clash left on the Lenglen
“I only have one thing to say, it’s stupid,” says the 22-year-old Serbian player, just eliminated by Ons Jabeur in the third round of the tournament. We play great tennis, I think my game was great today, like so many women’s games. We have a great Top 10, Top 20, Top 100 on the women’s circuit, and it’s good that the organizers are finally programming a women’s match in the evening. “Because we were so far on a zero point for the ladies on the first six night sessions of the Central. Worse, since the establishment of night sessions in 2021, with broadcast on Prime Video, only three women’s matches have so far been chosen (Serena Williams-Begu and Swiatek-Kostyuk in 2021, Cornet-Ostapenko last year). Director of Roland-Garros for two years, Amélie Mauresmo has hardly a profile to denigrate women’s tennis.
To this thorny question, she recently explained to the BBC: “To be honest, I am not able to tell you anything about the number of men’s or women’s matches. We are trying to find out which match will be the most important of the day. This is really what pushes us to make a choice”. While recalling “that there is more attraction for men’s matches”. A response that does not really bode well for a balance between men and women on the night sessions. And the a priori key element mentioned by Amélie Mauresmo remains very subjective. We admit it, the Gauff-Andreeva match was the one we found the most attractive on Saturday. However, he found himself in the middle of the afternoon on the Suzanne-Lenglen, while Zverev benefited from his second night session (against Tiafoe).
“How do you judge without looking? »
On the other hand this Sunday, we are hype by this shock Alcaraz-Musetti, yet placed before the match Sabalenka-Stephens therefore. Tomb of Olga Danilovic, the Tunisian Ons Jabeur recognizes it easily: “It was time to put a night session feminine. I don’t understand why there were only guys matches on the first days. It’s also a bit strange that here there are not two matches per evening, one male and one female, like at the other Grand Slams”. Because indeed, if Wimbledon has always refused to set up these night meetings, the Australian Open and the US Open have opted for a very long time for these two matches per evening, which they start earlier than in Paris. . That didn’t stop Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner from finishing an epic match at Flushing Meadows at 2:50 a.m. last year. This nightclub exit slot may seem surreal, but this formula makes it possible to guarantee parity, both sporting and media, between women and men.
“We feel that a routine with a single night game, and almost always male, has settled here, notes Canadian player Bianca Andreescu. Women’s tennis matches are so much fun that fairness shouldn’t even be a topic. Just check out a bunch of (disastrous) notices on social media around the scheduling of this Sabalenka-Stephens match, and see how quickly many (supposed) tennis fans got rid of their seats, to understand that this is still a subject in 2023. Very touched by this news, Ons Jabeur details all that it involved.
I’ve met a lot of people who think our games suck and then admit they’ve never watched women’s tennis. How do you judge without looking? Honestly, it’s time to change these mentalities, to give a chance to these women who fight every day. We make a lot of sacrifices that a lot of men don’t make on the circuit. We have to plan our whole professional life. I hope Central will be full tomorrow. It will be an extraordinary match as many are. Give these girls and all of women’s sport a chance. »
“Not the best slot to play”
But the entire women’s circuit does not take this issue as seriously as the 28-year-old Tunisian. At the extreme opposite of her, or almost, is Coco Gauff. She also asked about the very low proportion of women’s matches to have the honors of a prime time, the young American seemed to miss the mark on the real stakes in the balance for all women’s sport. “I hadn’t seen tomorrow’s lineup and I didn’t know that there had only been men for the moment,” she admits. I had no idea Sloane Stephens and Aryna Sabalenka wanted to play at this time [ce ne sont évidemment pas les joueuses qui décident de la programmation de leurs matchs], but nobody else wants to play at night. For us, it’s fine if the men do it because it’s not the best time to play. But it’s true, that’s where all the attention is. I don’t really have a view on that. »
Fortunately she did not venture to develop a point of view… In the bays of Roland-Garros on Saturday evening, this debate led to opinions as divergent as those of Coco Gauff and Ons Jabeur. And sometimes even confusing. Coming from London, Danielle and Louise have no trouble recognizing it in chorus: “We are more interested in the ATP circuit than in the WTA. Women’s matches can be more boring, with long rallies and slower strikes. The risk on the night session, is that as we pay a lot for a place for a single match, it can be very short for women. The solution might be to schedule two women’s matches in a row.
A first “night session” completed in 1h46
The idea could make sense because the question of the length of the matches is an unanswerable objective argument, although never put forward by the organization of the tournament: we therefore play as a reminder the best of five sets for men, and three rounds for the ladies. If female spectators assume their preference for men’s tennis, the reverse may also be true. Came with the family, Sylvain feasted on Sunday on the Suzanne-Lenglen in front of the Gauff-Andreeva and Jabeur-Danilovic matches: “I prefer women’s tennis because it offers just as much suspense and emotions, but without needing the matches exceed 3 hours of play, which I find far too long”.
Ironically, the Roland-Garros organization this year inaugurated its night sessions 2023 with a WTF limit choice on Monday, namely a very unbalanced Sinner-Müller on paper, and folded in 1:46. That’s 17 minutes less than the Gauff-Andreeva who seemed to tick all the boxes for a nightly program on Central on Saturday. For Paul, a 19-year-old tennis enthusiast, “we put in people’s heads, as with all other sports, that men’s tennis is more spectacular”. Spending his Sunday afternoon on the Philippe-Chatrier court, Paul noticed that as soon as the Holger Rune match was over, the stands emptied significantly for the arrival of Iga Swiatek, despite being world number one. This is to say if Aryna Sabalenka and Sloane Stephens will feel pressure this Sunday evening well beyond their individual journey at Roland-Garros.