Serena Williams isn’t the only female athlete who tennis officials are doubling down on when it comes to what is and isn't "appropriate" to wear on the court. On Tuesday, French tennis player Alizé Cornet changed her top quickly during a U.S. Open match against Swedish athlete Johanna Larsson in Flushing Meadows, Queen. The problem, officials say, is that when Cornet realized her shirt was backward and turned it around at the back of the court, she temporarily exposed her black sports bra. The umpire deemed the act “unsportsmanlike” behavior. They failed to mention that temperatures at the event this week reached 98 degrees with a heat index of 107.
Many were quick to call the ruling a double standard, as men often change shirts on the court during breaks without any punishment. Judy Murray, a tennis coach and the mother of 2012 U.S. Open winner, British player Andy Murray, tweeted: “Cornet came back to court after 10-minute heat break. Had her fresh shirt on back to front. Changed at back of court. Got a code violation. Unsportsmanlike conduct..... But the men can change shirts on court.”
The same day Cornet received her sanction, male player Novak Djokovic not only changed his shirt during his match against Marton Fucsovics but actually sat during a break on the court topless and was not penalized. The fact that Cornet was has opened the discussion not just around the type of conditions players should be forced to compete in, but why there has been such focus on the dress code for female players — and whether tennis, ultimately, has a sexism problem.
US Tennis Open Alizé Cornet take top off because it was back to front and she’s been penalised for breaking the rules. And yet Novak Djokovic can change his top and nothing is said. Sexism in Tennis it’s the 21st Century FFS. pic.twitter.com/iwVXHh779u— GamingWelchman ETS (@GamingWelchman) August 29, 2018
Perhaps it's time to have a bigger conversation about the rigid gender norms that are placed on women. It’s 2018, and there is more than one way to dress like a woman. And whether the dress code is official or unspoken, tennis, specifically the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the French Tennis Federation, need to recognize that — and assure that the rules are the same for both men and women. According to the BBC, the USTA said they "regret" the ruling and clarified that "all players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair." But such a ruling shouldn't be seen as celebratory when it's really common sense: If women have earned the right to play during the tournament, they deserve to wear whatever they want while doing so.
In a statement to the L.A. Times, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said: "The code violation that 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 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."