French Open Tennis

French Open night matches: Mauresmo fails to deliver on 2022 promises

The 2023 French Open is nearly over and the issue that arose in 2022 with the lack of night matches for women seems to have not been addressed at all a year later. Just like in 2022, the Roland Garros schedule for the night sessions saw the WTA snubbed time after time.

Why is that? Is this what the Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo meant when she made a promise to allot night sessions “fairly” to men as well as women?

Roland Garros nigh session
General view of Court Philippe CHATRIER on the night session during the Day 2 of Roland Garros on May 29, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport)

How many night matches for women there were at the 2023 French Open?

During the 2023 French Open, there were 10 prime-time night session matches. From those only one was allocated to the women. The second Sunday of the tournament saw Aryna Sabalenka and Sloan Stephens play their round 4 clash as a night match. The few other days where there were thrilling WTA clashes on the schedule pressure from TV Broadcasters and other behind-the-scene powers saw the schedule slung and a men’s match picked for the night session.

How does this compare to the 2022 French Open Schedule?

The 2022 French Open saw only 1 of the 10 night matches given to women. Immediately after the end of the tournament, the WTA players’ council questioned the Roland Garros organisers who promised to address the issue going forward. Well, it seems their idea for addressing the issue is to stick to the same schedule and hope they keep quiet this time.

Ironically since 2022, the Tournament Director is a woman, the ex-French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo. After the same questions regarding the lack of women in night matches in 2022 were raised she promised to address that: “I’m in it to try to find a better solution to be fair to everyone. I can see that there are some adjustments to be made, that’s for sure. We’re gonna talk about it after the tournament,” she had said.

Amelie Mauresmo
Photo by Icon Sport

So, whatever talks had taken place they seem to have come to the same conclusions as the 2023 French Open produced exactly the same result – only 1 of the 10 prime spot night matches was given to a WTA fixture. Pressed on that Mauresmo defended herself saying, “We have 15,000 people buying tickets for that match for 10 days so I’m really thinking about what would be the best match of the day. I cannot think at the moment differently on that. But other than that, I believe we are quite equal in pretty much everything that we do,”.

Why there is such a glaring lack of night matches for women?

Women Roland Garros scaled
PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE – Photo by Icon sport

In my opinion, the hidden reason behind the lack of women in night matches at the French Open are the hugely powerful broadcasting companies. There is no secret that men attract much more viewers. Men’s matches are much longer too, so the crazy fees TV broadcasters and live stream platforms charge their customers could be justified much easier in terms of value for money if the prime-time night match is between men.

I really can’t see any other reason why there is such a glaring discrepancy between men and women in night matches at the French Open. Even directly pressing a media guru on that the only answer I got was a cheeky smile, a shrug of the shoulders and the cryptic, “You know how it goes. Money decides everything.”

So, in my opinion, the main reason why there is such a ridiculous gulf between men’s and women’s night matches at Roland Garros is a direct blame to the rich broadcasters that practically dictate the organisers which game should be in the night session every day.

How to fix the lack of night matches going forward?

Well, the simple fix that I see is instead of putting only one men’s match in the night sessions, as has been the case at the French Open so far, to have two best of 3-set matches instead, whether we’re talking about two women’s matches or one women’s match and one double, or any other similar combination.

Even the ex-Grand Slam winner and respected Eurosport tennis guru Max Wilander agrees with me on that, “I think that it’s ridiculous to not have ladies matches at night,” he said on Friday. “I mean, it’s such an easy problem to solve. You throw in a French pair in mixed doubles where they play shorter matches, they don’t play three sets, they play a tie-breaker at one set all. The people here would love to support a French mixed team in doubles on centre court. I don’t think that is the problem, I think there is another issue because the problem is very easily solved.”

Well, I already stated what the other issue is and I stand by my opinion. Maybe, it is time to reduce the influence TV Broadcasters have on the schedule of big sporting events! Maybe, the Broadcasters themselves need to consider giving women the chance to show that they could attract as many viewers as the men in night sessions! Maybe, or maybe not!


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About the author

Iskra

Iskra had a promising, at least she believed so, tennis and volleyball careers as a junior but a series of injuries ended her hopes to become a professional athlete very early.

Instead, she focused all her energy on her other passion, writing. For over a decade, Iskra had been a freelance sports writer. Football, basketball and tennis are the main fields of her expertise.