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Australian Open Sparks Sexist Backlash After Asking Women To Move To Different Court

After organizers of the tennis grand slam asked defending champ Aryna Sabalenka and her quarterfinals opponent Barbora Krejcikova to move to a smaller arena due to scheduling complications, people called out how the same was not asked of the men.

Aryna Sabalenka
Shi Tang/Getty Images

Australian Open organizers were accused of sexism after they considered moving the women's quarterfinals from the tournament's main Rod Laver Arena to a smaller court due to a scheduling crisis on Tuesday night.

According to defending women's champion Aryna Sabalenka, tournament officials asked her to move her quarterfinals with world No. 2 player Barbora Krejcikova to allow for the following men's match between Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev to start sooner and potentially finish before midnight.

The previous two matches, including Novak Djokovic's four-set victory over Taylor Fritz, were running overtime, which left officials concerned about early morning finishes on Wednesday.

But the women players refused to make the downgrade from the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena to the 7,500-seat Margaret Court Arena unless it was necessary.

Sabalenka managed to beat Krejcikove in straight sets within 71 minutes after their quarterfinals commenced at 9:09 p.m., two hours later than planned.

Sinner and Rublev didn’t start facing off on the main court until about 10:42 p.m.

Eurosport's Tim Henman and retired pro player John McEnroe discussed the proposed scheduling shuffle that sparked a sexism debate.

Henman said he was "intrigued" about the backlash and asked:

“Why are they asking the women to move, when they’re not the last match?"
"They’re alright, they’re going to play and are going to be a bit late, but it’s the last match of the day–[Andrey] Rublev and [Jannik] Sinner–they’re going to be behind the eight ball.”

McEnroe shared his insight and replied:

“I’ll tell you why they asked the women, because if it went 6-0, 6-1 in one hour then they [the fans] would all be up in arms."
"They stay on Rod Laver and let’s say they move the guys and Sabalenka wins easily, then everyone’s upset.”

Social media users vented their frustration.

Sabalenka spoke to ABC 7 and recalled officials suggesting they change arenas.

“They asked our opinions, what do we think, and if we want to be moved right now."
“We just told them that, well, let’s see how this match goes and if it’s going to be really long then maybe it’s a good idea to be moved so they’re not going to finish like [Daniil] Medvedev the other night."
“Novak won that set 6-2 and it was still quite early and we decided to wait for this match.”

She added that she and Krejcikova “agreed for the possibility to be moved” if 10-time champion Djokovic's match against Fritz extended into a fifth match.

According to The Age, Sabalenka also commented:

“I’m happy that it wasn’t that long [of a] match, and we were able to play on the Rod Laver Arena."
"I think for the quarterfinals match, it’s important to be played on such a big stadium."
“I mean, of course, it would be much better to start at 7pm, but you cannot control other matches. They played for long, but I just tried to focus on myself and just wait a bit longer."
"It’s not that bad ... we have to adapt quickly to the conditions. I think we did it well.”

When all was said and done, Sabalenka walked away at the end of the night a proud victor.

"I played great tennis,” she toldAssociated Press.

“I hope I can keep playing that way, or even better.”

All of the day's scheduled matches that started at 1 p.m. wound up being played out on the main court despite delays.