EXCLUSIVE: An inside Look Into The Australian Open’s Inaugural Pride Day - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: An inside Look Into The Australian Open’s Inaugural Pride Day

Why is there a Pride Day taking place and what is its significance? UbiTennis speaks with Dr Ryan Storr who has been involved in the pre-work for the initiative.

Avatar

Published

on

Monday at Melbourne Park will see the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Aryna Sabalenka battle for a place in the quarter-finals but taking place during the same time will be a brand new initiative overseen by Tennis Australia.

AO Pride Day celebrates LGTBQ+ players and fans within the world of tennis. The Rod Laver Arena will be lit up in rainbow colors at night, activities will be taking place throughout the day and there will be a various forms of entertainment put on. Courtney Act, who is best known for finishing runner-up in season six of Rupaul’s Drag Race, will be one of the MC’s taking part. 

 

“For many years we’ve hosted special events for the LGBTI community, such as the international Glam Slam and our pre-AO Pride night, so bringing many of our initiatives together on AO Pride Day is the natural next step,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said in a statement.  “I’m delighted we can all come together as a community to celebrate together on this special day, which I have no doubt will become a highly anticipated part of the AO every year.”

One of those who have been part of launching the initiative is Dr Ryan Storr. A social scientist with an extensive history of researching LGBTI issues in sport. He is a research fellow at Swinburne University of Technology and is the co-founder of Proud 2 Play which seeks to facilitate young people from the LGBTI community into sport and exercise. Storr also has roots in tennis after previously working as a coach at Northumbria University and Loughborough University.

UbiTennis speaks with Storr ahead of Pride Day to find out why such an initiative is important and what he has discovered about LGBTI-related tennis issues through his own academic work. We also look into the debate surrounding the decision to have one of the Australia’s Open primary stadiums named after Margaret Court who has previously made various anti-LGBTI comments.

UBITENNIS: Ryan, You have been involved in some of the pre-work for the first Australian Open Pride day. What has that entailed?

DR STORR: It’s been an ongoing process for quite a while. But it basically meant working with Tennis Australia and their Diversity and Inclusion team. Thinking about planning, what the events are, what the aim is and things like that.

I think one of the things I think I have been particularly helpful with is using the research. I did a big piece of research around the impact of inclusion on LGBTI communities, what can be done and so on.

There have been planning groups, emails, working groups – so a lot of planning has gone into this. It is not a one-off project, it has been building for years and I think this one is going to be the biggest one since it is now sponsored and presented by Ralph Lauren. There has been a lot of community engagement, stakeholder engagement and speaking with the community about what we want with this event.

UBITENNIS: Why is it important to have days like these at the Australian Open and what is the overall objective?

DR STORR: The importance of Pride Day, in addition to the Glam Slam which is happening next weekend, is using Tennis Australia’s reach and brand to raise awareness and to invite people in. So when people might think why do we have Pride Day’s? In the context of tennis it is to try and attract new fans. From research and my own research LGBTI fans from across the globe don’t always feel welcome. Sometimes there is a hostile environment during live sporting events so some people might not think to attend or they think about their safety.

It’s basically marketing to the LGBTI community saying we want you to come to our event and we are inclusive. Unfortunately, if they are not told, some may feel it is not a place for them. Especially trans and gender diverse people who can have challenges in terms of accessing bathrooms etc.

UBITENNIS: In the press release Tennis Australia says the day ‘promises to be both an uplifting and educational day for AO fans on-site.’ What about players, will they be able to participate in some way if they wish?

DR STORR: I think there is educational information that’s being given to players. I know Felix Auger-Aliassime was at the first Nations Day which celebrates indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. So I think there are opportunities for people to get involved and find out more.

One of the things in particular which I have been involved in is stories and videos around what Pride means and showcasing people’s experiences.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1481877978472906752

UBITENNIS: You are an accomplished social scientist and co-founder of Proud2Play inc. Have you discovered any studies which highlight the impact of events such as these within a sports environment?

DR STORR: One thing that stood out to me when I did research is generally the people who take part in the Glam Slam, GLTA (Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance) tournaments and who they are marketing at is an older demographic. So for example the LGBTI clubs are probably for people aged 30 and above, but mainly around 40-50. In the time when they were younger a lot places it (homosexuality) was illegal, we had the HIV/AIDS crises and discrimination was very common.

I think it’s gone 360 and we really need to show that sport has changed in particular. That it is inviting and welcoming for people because it has a long history of discrimination.

There has been quite a bit of research, especially on pride Games about attitudinal change. One of the things to note is that one-off events don’t do that much. They raise awareness, but they are not going to solve homophobia and transphobia in sport. One thing to know about Tennis Australia and the Glam Slam is that there are also other events going on leading up to this (Australian Open Pride). But I think this event in particular highlights Pride and some of the challenges.

My research found that playing tennis in inclusive and safe environments significantly improved the lives of LGBTI people. That’s why these Pride Games and Pride Day’s show a significant increase in mental and social health, as well as overall wellbeing.

UBITENNIS: One thing I noticed when the Australian Open posted their Pride video on social media, it brought up the debate over the Margaret Court Arena and whether it should be renamed due to her history of anti-LGBTI remarks. I was just wondering what your opinion on the matter is being both Australian and a member of the LGBTI community?

DR STORR: The Margaret Court Arena is an interesting and complex topic still. I think Tennis Australia has suggested that they would potentially change the name but unfortunately Melbourne Park is owned and run by the Olympic Park Trust. So in order to do that (renamed a court) it needs to be the Olympic Park Trust.

Tennis Australia doesn’t have the naming rights. I think it potentially will change. The name of John Cain Arena has changed a number of times but I think having that name (showcased on an arena) doesn’t show that Tennis Australia is not inclusive.

Tennis Australia is doing so much work behind the scene and investing money. They have invested in research through the University I was working at. There are not many sports who are investing in this.

I think there is going to be a significant evidence-base (data) to show the positive impact of these events in terms of tickets sold, brand awareness etc.

There is an absolute commitment from Tennis Australia in terms of time, resources, energy and funding. This is all-year round and not just when the Australian Open is on.

UBITENNIS: So what does the future hold when it comes to promoting LGBTI issues in tennis considering there is no openly gay player on the men’s Tour?

DR STORR: I think in the coming years there will be a few more bits going on. I have a colleague, Lou, from Pride Sports UK who has been commissioned to initially do some research and insight around LGBTI inclusion.

Tennis is probably welcoming and inclusive in this respect. I wouldn’t say it is like a player couldn’t come out because it is an individual sport which makes a difference compared to team sports. But the proof will be in the pudding when somebody comes out. I think there is going to be a lot more work from the ATP and the other Grand Slams.

Tennis hasn’t really engaged in LGBTI inclusion. You got Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King but it is important to engage with LGBTI communities moving on into the future.

You can find out more about Storrs academic work related to LGBTI issues in sport HERE or follow him on twitter.

Grand Slam

REPORT: French Open Qualifying Match Under Investigation Over Irregular Betting Patterns

An unusual number of bets were placed on the match in three different countries.

Avatar

Published

on

A first round match at this week’s French Open qualifying tournament is being looked into after an abnormally high number of bets was placed, according to a leading French newspaper.

 

L’Equipe have cited police sources saying that the clash between eighth seed Bernabé Zapata Miralles and Dudi Sela has flagged up irregular patterns. Miralles defeated his Israeli rival 6-3, 6-0, in less than an hour. It is understood that the focus of the investigation is on the second set which lasted less than 20 minutes. A total of 32 points was placed in that set with Sela only winning seven of those.

According to the source, an unusually high number of bets were placed on the match in three different countries – Cyprus, Ukraine and Armenia. Prompting judicial authorities to look into the possibility that the match could have been fixed but at present no formal investigation has been confirmed.

“There is no business,” the French Tennis Federation (FFT) was quoted by Le Parisien as saying on the matter.

37-year-old Sela is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400 but managed to get into the qualifying draw with the use of a protected ranking. He has only played in two singles tournaments so far this season with the other being at the Australian Open where he also lost in the first round of qualifying.

Sela confirmed in January that 2022 would be his last as a professional. A former top 30 player, he has reached the final of two ATP events in China (2008) and Atlanta (2014). He also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2009 and has beaten three top 10 players during his career.

Meanwhile, Miralles sealed his place in the French Open main draw on Thursday after coming from a set down to beat Luca Nardi 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that either player has been involved in match-fixing. According to statistics from L’Equipe, there has been a 177% increase in online bets concerning the French Open over a five-year period to 128M euros in 2021.

This year players who lose in the first round of qualifying at the French Open will earn €14,000, which is a 40% increase on 2021.

Continue Reading

ATP

‘Time To Accept The Situation And Fight’ – Rafael Nadal Targets French Open Despite Foot Concern

After recently returning to the Tour following a rib injury, a flare up of another issue threatens to spoil Nadal’s Paris dreams.

Avatar

Published

on

Image via Roberto Dell’Olivo

Just over a week before the start of the French Open Rafael Nadal once again finds himself nursing a long-term condition that sidelined him from the Tour for months last year.

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion looked to be in visible discomfort during parts of his clash with Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Italian Masters on Thursday. After clinching the opening set, Nadal fell 1-6, 7-5, 6-2, to the Canadian who registered his first-ever win over a top 10 player on clay and his 10th overall. He now faces a race against time to be ready for the French Open which he has won a record 13 times.

“I am not injured. I am a player living with an injury. That’s it, it is nothing new. It’s something that is there,” Nadal told reporters in Rome.

35-year-old Nadal suffers from Mueller-Weiss syndrome, which is a degenerative disease that causes a deformity of one of the bones in the central part of the foot. Due to the condition last year he was only able to play in one tournament over a six-month period. In September that year he underwent treatment on his foot but not surgery.

“My day-by-day is difficult, honestly. Even like this, I am trying hard. Of course, it’s difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes,” the former world No.1 said of his condition. “It can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”

The setback occurred during what was only Nadal’s second tournament since returning to action following a rib injury. At last week’s Madrid Open he reached the quarter-finals before losing to compatriot Carlos Alcaraz. Nadal’s recent misfortunes follow what has been a blistering start to the season for him. He started 2022 by winning 20 matches in a row before losing to Taylor Fritz in Indian Wells. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 23-3 with three titles won, including the Australian Open.

During his visit to Roland Garros this year Nadal will be joined by his doctor who will be keeping a close eye on his foot. As to how much the condition could hinder his campaign in the French capital, the Spaniard admits that he doesn’t know due to its unpredictability.

First thing that I need to do is to not have pain to practice, that’s it. And the negative thing is today it’s not possible for me to play. But maybe in two days things will be better, that’s the thing that I have with my foot,” he explained.

Nadal is the most successful player in French Open history with a total of 105 main draw wins. In fact, the only players to have ever beaten him at the tournament are Novak Djokovic twice and Sweden’s Robin Soderling.

“It’s time to accept the situation and fight. That’s it. Honestly, I can’t say anything more now,” Nadal continued.
“I still have a goal (to be ready for the French Open) in one week and a couple of days. I’m going to keep dreaming about that goal.”

Nadal has played just five matches on clay this season heading into the French Open.

Continue Reading

Grand Slam

Players Face Sanctions If They Make Pro-Putin Statements At French Open, Warns Mauresmo

Avatar

Published

on

The tournament director of the French Open admits there is ‘no fair decision’ regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in the Grand Slam.

 

Amelie Mauresmo, who is a former WTA No.1 player herself, confirmed that players from those countries will be allowed to play during an interview with French radio. Although they will only be allowed to play under a neutral status in line with the rules which have been adopted by other governing bodies of the sport. The action has been taken in response to Russia’s military assault on the Ukraine which began on February 24th. Belarus is suspected of supporting Russia in the conflict which has already killed thousands of people.

The stance of officials in Paris is a stark contrast to that of Wimbledon who has controversially implemented a ban on those players, as well as the LTA. Making it the first time The All England Club has excluded players due to their nationality since the World War Two Era when German and Japanese players weren’t allowed to participate. The ATP Tour is reportedly considering removing the allocation of points to the event in response to the ban.

Speaking about the issue, Mauresmo confirmed that action could be taken against any player who decides to make pro-Putin statements during the tournament. Although she didn’t elaborate on what penalties could be used if such a situation occurs.

“We have thought a lot, and I have the impression that there is no fair decision, one way or the other,” said Mauresmo. “We are in line with what European sports ministers have decided, we do not welcome teams but individual athletes. Obviously if an athlete speaks in the press for example and supports Vladimir Putin, sanctions will be taken. “

Providing an update on the upcoming tournament, Mauresmo says she is confident that this year’s tournament will have an almost full attendance. Confirming that “tickets are sold at more than 90-95%” of its capacity in what she hails as a ‘real success’ for the tournament. Last year’s edition took place with a restricted capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s French Open will begin on May 22nd. Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejcikova are the defending champions.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending