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Quote of the Day: Victoria Azarenka says player exploitation “happens right and left” on women's tour
In the wake of French player Fiona Ferro’s sexual assault allegations against her former coach, Azarenka has called on the WTA Tour to improve safeguarding measures for vulnerable players.
Published Sep 04, 2022
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NEW YORK—It’s a story that has become all too familiar in women’s professional tennis, but one former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka wants to make sure won’t be repeated.
Earlier this year, former doubles world No. 1 Pam Shriver broke her silence about being involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship with her former coach when she was 17—he was 33 years her senior. In March, American player Kylie McKenzie brought a lawsuit against the USTA for failing to safeguard her when a coach at the national training center in Orlando, Florida, was touching her inappropriately.
This week, French player Fiona Ferro became the latest player to come forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault against her former coach, Pierre Bouteyre.
“I applaud her for being brave,” Azarenka said of Ferro. “I hope this situation, she's gonna come out of it stronger and tennis is not ruined for her because of that.
“That's, I think, a very, very heavy topic… It's [a] topic that has to come out more.”
Speaking during her US Open third-round press conference, Azarenka didn’t mince words when asked about the prevalence of this issue on the Hologic WTA Tour—or about the role the tour and player council can play in protecting vulnerable players:
Q: You just talked about coaches manipulating players, and there have been incredible stories of real severe manipulation and exploitation of young players that you may know about. Could you talk about that subject, sort of kick-start what the elements of that dynamic is?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It's a very sensitive subject, because you won't hear those stories unless players come out and tell those stories. It happens right and left on the tour, which is unfortunate.
Our job is to be better at safeguarding. As [a member of the] player council, it's almost like No. 1 subject to us. Because we see those vulnerable young ladies that [are] getting taken advantage of in different situations. It's really sad and really makes me emotional…
I have a son [and] I don't see that [it] happens so much on the men's tour. And if I had a daughter, I would have a question [if] would she want to play tennis. That would be a very big concern in that way for me.
No. 26 seed Azarenka, a three-time US Open finalist (2012-13, 2020), will take on No. 22 seed Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 runner-up, in the fourth round.