Feliciano Lopez - Brisbane International 2019

Feliciano Lopez under fire after ‘disappointing’ WTA players

Feliciano Lopez has come under lots of scrutiny in the past few days, after the Madrid Open decided not to allow the women’s doubles players to speak after the final on Sunday.

Lopez has been the tournament director of the Madrid Open since 2019, and is still an active ATP player until the end of this year when he plans to retire.

The tournament had come under a lot of criticism over the past week, with it all spoiling over when Carlos Alcaraz received a significantly larger cake than his fellow No.2 Aryna Sabalenka when they celebrated their birthdays in the Spanish capital.

While the cake itself may not have been the issue, two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka took to Twitter suggesting that the cake size difference was a visual description of the difference in treatment between ATP and WTA players.

“Couldn’t be more accurate on the treatment,” Azarenka said in response to a side-by-side shot of the two cakes.

Lopez responded to this tweet and other backlash he and the tournament were receiving by saying, “I’m surprised by this reaction after this gesture! 1.Carlos had just won his match to reach the final 2.He was playing on centre court 3.The tournament is played in Spain, even though it is an international event. PS: I hope Rune wasn’t also upset by his treatment.”

Two days later Azarenka and her Madrid doubles partner Beatriz Haddad Maia won their first title together, after beating top seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula in the final.

However, surprisingly the four women were not given the opportunity to speak to the crowd in the post-match ceremony, something that the men’s doubles players were able to do.

This was met with significant backlash, as many believed that Lopez and the tournament did not want to give Azarenka the opportunity to speak in case she criticised the tournament.

The Belarusian took to Twitter again after the match and said, “Hard to explain to Leo [her son] that mommy isn’t able to say hello to him at the trophy ceremony.”

Beaten finalist Gauff also took to Twitter, and has now gone into more detail about the situation in her pre-tournament press conference in Rome.

“Yeah, obviously, I mean, the decision was made. I thought it was not the right decision,” said Gauff. “I think there was probably certain situations that happened before. I did express to the tournament and to the directors that whatever happened before in this situation shouldn’t affect something like this.”

The 18-year-old continued, “I think maybe players want to criticise in their speech. I don’t know what was going to be said in the speech. At least my speech, I wasn’t going to say anything. I didn’t know about the whole situation before because I’m not on Twitter. You can kind of see us talking on the podium. That’s when I found out.”

Gauff later confirmed that she had received an apology from the tournament, “I think for the most part, yeah, I don’t think it was a great decision. I expressed that afterwards. They apologised.”

Her doubles partner Pegula also criticised the decision, revealing that she ‘didn’t know what century everyone was living in’.

“Did I think we were not going to be able to speak, no. I’ve never heard of that in my life. Even in a 10K challenger final you would speak,” claimed Pegula.

“I don’t know what century everyone was living in when they made that decision or how they actually had a conversation and decided, like: ‘Wow, this is a great decision we’re going to do and there’s going to be no backlash against this’. Everyone kind of picked up on it and was very disappointed.”

The WTA No.3 added: “There seemed to be a lot of drama in Madrid this year on a variety of different things. I think there was just a build-up of a lot of tension. I wish they could have handled it in a more mature, professional way. That’s not what happened.”

Wimbledon and US Open champion Ons Jabeur also spoke about the issue on Twitter, “So unfortunate that you were not given a chance to address the crowd and your opponents. This is sad and unacceptable.”

From the lack of speeches, to the size of cakes and ball girl outfits, Feliciano Lopez and the Madrid Open team have had a lot to answer for over the past two weeks and it appears that the WTA tour are pulling together to fight for what they believe in.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.