Madrid Open sexism row escalates with Jessica Pegula criticism: ‘What century were they living in?’

The women’s doubles finalists, including Jessica Pegula (centre), were not allowed to make speeches in Madrid  (Getty Images)
The women’s doubles finalists, including Jessica Pegula (centre), were not allowed to make speeches in Madrid (Getty Images)

Jessica Pegula has criticised the organisers of the Madrid Open after the women’s doubles finalists were denied the opportunity to make post-match speeches.

Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia beat Pegula and Coco Gauff in straight sets on Sunday in the Spanish capital, but did not address the crowd afterwards.

All of the finalists in the singles and men’s doubles finals were, however, permitted to make presentation speeches.

Pegula has now revealed that the players were only told they would not be making post-match remarks while being awarded their trophies.

“I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision,” said 29-year-old Pegula after a 6-1, 6-4 defeat.

“Or how they had a conversation and decided, ‘Wow, this is a great decision and there’s going to be no-backlash against this’.

“I’ve never heard in my life we wouldn’t be able to speak. It was really disappointing. In a $10,000 final you would speak.

“It spoke for itself. We were upset when it happened and told during the trophy ceremony we weren’t able to speak. It kind of proved a point.”

Belarus’s Azarenka added that she found it “hard to explain” to her seven-year-old son, Leo, why she had not been able to address him after securing victory.

The Madrid Open organisers said they “will not comment on the matter”.

The Madrid Open has been hit by multiple allegations of sexism this year, with the prominent clay court tournament heavily criticised by some of the sport’s top players.

Ball girls involved in the men’s final between Carlos Alcaraz and Jan-Lennard Struff wore different outfits to the crop tops and short skirts they had worn throughout the rest of the tournament.

Azarenka, meanwhile, appeared to support an accusation of misogyny in a tweet after compatriot Aryna Sabalenka was given a significantly smaller cake that Alcaraz after both celebrated birthdays during the event.

Pegula insisted that the incidents had to lead to change: “There had been a lot of drama in Madrid this year, on a variety of different things.

“There was a lot of tension and it got worse. That didn’t help the situation.

“Out of all the drama the end goal is to figure out solutions. This cannot happen again - it needs to be changed.”