Setting the Record Straight
Cornet walked off the court disappointed that she lost her first round match, but concerned that she would be assessed a fine for "Unsportsmanlike" conduct. Social media erupted with outrage at the umpire's call, and the United States Tennis Association ("USTA") apologized to Cornet. The Women's Tennis Association ("WTA") also issued a formal statement clarifying that Cornet's actions did not constitute a violation.
"The code violation that USTA handed to Alize Cornet during her first match at the US Open was unfair... We are pleased to see the USTA has now changed this policy. Alize did nothing wrong."
Whether a player choses to change his/her shirt on the court or in a more private location such as a locker room is a matter of personal preference. The real issue is whether an athlete's actions exhibit a lack of respect for the game.
Is there a double-standard for what constitutes disrespectful behavior for women?
In the Men's Quarterfinals, John Millman left the court at 2-2 in the second set to change his clothes which were dripping sweat onto the court creating dangerous playing conditions. Novak Djokovic used the unexpected break as an opportunity to recline in his chair shirtless in front of 14,000 fans for several minutes. Was Djokovic's exposure of his chest disresepctful to the game or was his behavior reasonable given the extreme heat conditions inside Arthur Ashe Stadium?
Novak Djokovic relaxes while opponent (John Millman) changes in locker room - 2018 US Open
While men dictate the rules of the game and define what is acceptable, women must behave within the norms of what society defines as being acceptable. Andre Agassi wore cut off blue jean shorts back in the 1980s, but Serena is criticized for wearing a catsuit. Serena has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and suffers from a life threatening medical condition with blood clots warranting compression in her attire. If Serena wants to wear a catsuit, super hero outfit or tutu for that matter she should. Serena is not being disrespectful to the game - she is expressing herself as a strong female athlete.
Serena Williams - a strong female athlete - 2007 US Open
How an athlete dresses and behaves on court is a refelction of a player's identity. Freedom of expression is paramount to American values - what athletes wear, how they carry themselves, how they sweat, persevere through pain and handle adversity - this is what makes sports great and drives athletes to reach their full potential.
Alize Cornet may have lost her three set match against Johanna Larson, but her match represents a step forward in addressing the inherent double-standard in women's sports today.
February 5, 2019
Digital Media Sports by Leigh Ernst Friestedt