Alizé Cornet was penalized at the U.S. Open for quickly removing her shirt and putting it back on, a move from the Open that critics are calling sexist.
The chair umpire Christian Rask hit French player Cornet, who is ranked No. 31 in the world, with the code violation, effectively a warning in the sport, during her opening round match against Johanna Larsson on Tuesday.
Cornet’s code violation came during a scorcher in Flushing Meadows, Queens, on Tuesday. It was so sweltering at the U.S. that the heat rule was in effect, permitting players to take 10-minutes breaks to try to cool off and drink water after their second sets. Cornet was just returning from her 10-minute break when she appeared to realize her shirt was on backwards. And so Cornet, who was wearing a sports bra underneath, took it off to put back on correctly.
Cornet was in disbelief and can be heard saying “Violation for what? Really?” in a video of the moment when the umpire stated the violation.
According to the official Women’s Tennis Association rulebook, a player is only allowed to change their clothes somewhere off of the court or during the end of a set, or during timeouts related to medical issues. Cornet changed her shirt between the second and third sets. She quickly returned to play the game after receiving the violation.
The penalty doesn’t affect the score, and Cornet ultimately lost to Larsson 6-4, 3-6, 2-6.
Critics online were quick to call out the punitive action, pointing out that male tennis players frequently take their shirts off to cope with the oppressive heat with no consequences. For instance, Novak Djovovic took his ice bath shirtless to try to cool down during their opening match on Tuesday.
The WTA commented Wednesday afternoon, calling the violation “unfair,” and “not based on a WTA rule,” adding “Alize did nothing wrong.”
In a statement, the U.S. Open clarified that Cornet did not violate the code when she changed her shirt.
“All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a Code Violation,” the statement read. “We regret that a Code Violation was assessed to Ms. Cornet yesterday. We have clarified the policy to ensure this will not happen moving forward. Fortunately, she was only assessed a warning with no further penalty or fine. Female players, if they choose, may also change their shirts in a more private location close to the court, when available. They will not be assessed a bathroom break in this circumstance.”