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This female tennis player’s warning has sparked a sexist debate

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Megan Murray
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French tennis player Alizé Cornet has been given a warning for swivelling her top to be the correct way round on the court, while men have been changing topless for years without punishment. 

Tennis fans, Twitter and the world in general has been shocked by the incredibly sexist treatment of Alizé Cornet, the French tennis player who has been given a warning at this year’s US Open. 

Cornet played her Swedish opponent Johanna Larsson on Tuesday (28 August), and during an extreme heat break she walked towards the back of the court and lifted up her top to swivel it round, having accidentally put it on back-to-front in the changing rooms. 

Despite doing this discreetly and quickly (the switch took no more than 10 seconds), Cornet was given a warning by Danish umpire Christian Rask, who said her actions were “unsportsmanlike.”

The ruling has sparked outrage online, with Judy Murray being one of the first to challenge this decision as sexism after pointing out that men have long been allowed to change their shirts on court.

Writing in a tweet, Judy said: “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.”

Twitter users agreed in their droves. One Twitter user highlighted the unfairness of the warming, writing: “#alizecornet demonstrating that no matter a woman’s achievements with her body, many men will only ever see it first and foremost as an explicit sex object.”

Another reinforced the issue of sexism in sport, and specifically tennis, by referring to the news earlier this week that French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli said that the catsuit Serena Williams wore to play the French Open in May will “no longer be accepted”.

She said: “Busted for code violation. #alizecornet took 10 seconds to turn her top the right way but #novacdjokovic can sit for minutes half-naked. Same comp. Days after @serenawilliams slammed for disrespecting tennis because she wore a #catsuit. Not fair. Not right. Tell your daughters.”

The umpire claims that her behaviour violated the Women’s Tennis Association rule book, but both the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) have rejected this. 

The WTA has said that Ransk’s ruling was unfair as “the WTA has no rule against a change of attire on court” and added that Cornet did “nothing wrong.”

The USTA also condemned the umpire’s ruling, saying in a statement: “All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a code violation.

“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.”

As this was a first offence, it will not appear on Cornet’s record and thankfully won’t have a negative impact on her career. 

Speaking about the incident, and the deeply troubling, misogynistic treatment of women in the tennis industry that has come to light this week in particular, Cornet said the French Tennis Federation President “lives in another time.”

According to the BBC, Cornet also said that she thought the comments about Williams were “10,000 times worse” than what happened to her. 

She said that she found the comments “shocking” and that she was scared she would be fined for getting a warning. “I think it’s very fair from them to apologise to me. I think the umpire was probably overwhelmed by the situation,” she continued.

We may be slowly moving forward into a world where women in sport are respected as much as men, but it seems that tennis is really dragging its heels.

Images: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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