U.S. Open Changes Course on Women Changing Shirts


The United States Open completed a massive renovation project around the grounds in time for its 50th anniversary this year.

But with the construction crews gone and the tournament underway, the tournament still had work to do beyond its physical structures.

The tournament, which in 1973 became the first of the Grand Slams to offer equal prize money to men and women, has been nimbly patching cracks in its proud foundation of gender equality.

First, the tournament instituted a 10-minute break for men’s singles players, who play a best-of-five-set format, after the third set. The women have had such a break in extreme heat after the second set in their best-of-three matches for years.

A second policy change was sparked by a single incident that lasted only a few seconds.

After taking a break from the blistering heat on Tuesday, Alizé Cornet came back onto court for the third set with her top on backward.

When she tried to turn it around, she revealed a problematic policy. Cornet was assessed a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct for taking her shirt off behind the baseline before the game began. She was wearing a sports bra under her top, and the change took only a few seconds. She had been warned by the chair umpire that such a violation was possible as she began to take the shirt off.

Many thought the chair umpire had made a mistake. But after the match on Tuesday evening, the U.S.T.A. said that there was a “longstanding policy” restricting women from removing their tops on court, and that the code violation was correctly assessed.

No such rule exists for men, who change their shirts several times on court during a match. Rafael Nadal takes off his shirt and stands around shirtless for a few minutes after each match he wins. There have been few complaints.

The rule for women, specific to the Grand Slams and not tour events, was not known to many female players, many of whom freely practice wearing sports bras as tops on hot days.

By Wednesday morning, after an outcry on social media, the U.S.T.A. had issued a new statement regarding changing clothes.

“All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair,” the U.S.T.A. said. “This is not considered a Code Violation. 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, the U.S.T.A. added, are also able to change their tops in a more private location near the court if they wished.

The WTA Tour expressed relief at the adjustment, calling the previous policy “unfair” and not in keeping with its own rules. “We are pleased to see the U.S.T.A. has now changed this policy,” the WTA said. “Alizé did nothing wrong.”

The reversed shirt and reversed rule became the talk of the tournament Wednesday.

“That should never happen,” Victoria Azarenka said after her second-round win. “If I would say my true feelings, it would be bleeped out, because I think it was ridiculous.”

After her doubles match on Wednesday, Cornet had so many news media requests that she was put into the tournament’s biggest interview room.

Cornet said she appreciated that the tournament had corrected course, but marveled at the bra brouhaha.

“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think that this code violation would become so famous in less than 24 hours, and I’m very surprised about it, actually, to be honest,” she said. “Because on the court, it really seemed like a mistake from the umpire and nothing else.”

Cornet realized the shirt was backward only when her boyfriend, sitting courtside, pointed it out to her.

“I couldn’t play the whole third set like this,” she said, pointing toward her chin where she said her collar was.

The perception that tennis officials were regulating women’s clothing and bodies has pervaded the first days of this U.S. Open.

Before the tournament started, the French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, said he wanted to ban outfits like the form-fitting catsuit Serena Williams wore at the French Open earlier this year.

Cornet, who is from France, said that Giudicelli “lives in another time.”

She added: “What Bernard Giudicelli said about Serena’s catsuit was 10,000 times worse than what happened to me on the court yesterday. Because he’s the president of French Federation and because he doesn’t have to do that.”’

Cornet said she had been overwhelmed by the support she had received from players both past and present, including the two-time U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin.

“All the players were supporting me for that, and were telling me that if I get fined, we would all be together and see the WTA, and make a revolution and stuff,” Cornet said. “I was, like, ‘Calm down. I’m going to get the information first, and then we see if we make a revolution or not.’”

Source : NYtimes