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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens said ATP Cup received preferential center court scheduling over WTA matches shoving "girls to the side" in Brisbane.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Sloane Stephens suggests the ATP Cup reduced women's tennis to second-class status in Brisbane.

Brisbane hosted the ATP Cup, which now moves on to Sydney for the quarterfinals on Thursday, and the WTA's Brisbane International simultaneously in recent days. Team Australia, which went undefeated in Group F of ATP Cup play, has been a major draw in Brisbane.

More: Osaka Edges Sakkari in Brisbane Opener

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova and wild card Maria Sharapova infuse a loaded Brisbane International field with plenty of star power. The quality of both the ATP Cup and WTA fields presented organizers with a scheduling dilemma.

However, ATP Cup matches dominated the schedule on Pat Rafter Arena, which features a fabric roof and cooler conditions than the outer courts, in a move some players say is a clear sign of disrespect to women's tennis.

Calling the issue "a respect thing", Stephens said Brisbane bowed to the ATP Cup seizing the stadium spotlight shoving "girls to the side" without giving the WTA a voice in the scheduling conversation. 

"I think that having an ATP Cup at the same place that you have a premier tournament for the women is a bit challenging," Stephens told the media in Brisbane following her opening-round loss to Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova. "I think that when you're a No.1 player in the world who is going to play on the side court, I don't think that that's great. I think it's kind of a respect thing.

"We just weren't in the conversation to even be considered. It was what the ATP wanted, they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that's kind of how it always is. So I think it's unfortunate but we play and we do what we do and, hopefully next year, there will be some adjustments."

The 2017 US Open champion said while she understands business factors drive scheduling decisions and running two tournaments simultaneously limits court options, it's "not the greatest look" to see elite WTA players assigned to outer courts. 

"I don't feel disrespected personally. I think business is business, their priority was the ATP Cup. I just feel like in general there could have been some things done differently," Stephens said. "Obviously I understand it's a huge event and they might not have any options, which I also understand.

"But at the same time, like I said, we're playing a premier [level tournament] here and when you have a lot of the girls in the Top 10 that are playing here, and they're all playing on side courts, it's not the greatest look."


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