The US Open, which was the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal pay to women, likes to think of itself as a champion of equality and on Wednesday it moved swiftly in response to criticism following the previous day’s bizarre incident involving Alize Cornet.
The 28-year-old Frenchwoman left the court during a 10-minute heat break before the deciding set of her third-round encounter with Johanna Larsson. During the break she changed her kit, but suddenly realised on her return to the court that she had put her top on back-to-front.
Cornet quickly took off the top, revealing her black-and-red sports bra, and put it back on the right way round. The whole process took only 15 seconds, but it earned the world No 31 a code violation from Christian Rask, the chair umpire. Meanwhile male players have been regularly seen changing their shirts at changeovers without any punishment.
The punishment was clearly absurd and prompted a torrent of criticisms. Judy Murray led the way on Twitter, pointing out the discrepancy between the rules for men and women, with the former Australian player Casey Dellacqua describing it as “ridiculous”.
The United States Tennis Association responded on Wednesday by saying that it did not consider Cornet’s actions to have been a code violation.
“All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair,” the USTA said in a statement. “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.”
The USTA also said that female players would be given the option of changing their kit in a more private location close to the court when available. “They will not be assessed a bathroom break in this circumstance,” the statement said.
Meanwhile the Women’s Tennis Association was keen to point out that it did not have any rules preventing players from changing their outfits on court. It pinned the blame on the US Open.
“The code violation that the USTA handed to Alize Cornet during her first round match at the US Open was unfair and it was not based on a WTA rule, as the WTA has no rule against a change of attire on court,” the WTA said in a statement.
“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.”
You can usually guarantee that fashion will be a topic of conversation here at the US Open. Unfettered by the all-white clothing rules in the year’s previous Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon, kit manufacturers seem to relish the opportunity to deck out their players in eye-catching outfits.
Cornet was wearing a stripey pink outfit, while many of Nike’s players here have been wearing a light-coloured dress featuring a split to the thigh, exposing flashes of bright shorts, and another at the back.
However, nobody has attempted a version of the black catsuit which Serena Williams wore at the French Open earlier this summer and which the Roland-Garros authorities have subsequently said will not be allowed in the future.