Madrid TD Feliciano Lopez hits back at Ons Jabeur after Tunisian's harsh criticism

Lopez responds to Jabeur claiming the Madrid Open were favoring men over women.

by Dzevad Mesic
Madrid TD Feliciano Lopez hits back at Ons Jabeur after Tunisian's harsh criticism
© Getty Images Sport - Mark Metcalfe

Madrid Open tournament director Feliciano Lopez doesn't think that Ons Jabeur was "fair" in her criticism and claiming that men and women weren't treated equally at Caja Magica as the former Spanish tennis star acknowledges the Madrid Open has made some mistakes in the past but adds that they have also done several things that prove that men and women receive the same treatment in the Spanish capital.

On Monday, world No. 9 Jabeur ousted Jelena Ostapenko 6-0 6-4 in the Madrid round-of-16. Before coming to Madrid, Jabeur was mightily struggling and she had been yet to clinch back-to-back wins in 2024. But in Madrid - where Jabeur won her first WTA 1000 title in 2022 - not only that the Tunisian won back-to-back matches for the first time this season but she also made it three consecutive wins to reach the quarterfinal. 

Following her win over Ostapenko, Jabeur was asked what was the secret behind her Madrid success. That's when three-time Grand Slam finalist Jabeur delivered a pretty fiery response. 

"The conditions and the fact that they annoy me here by favoring men," Jabeur said following her win over Ostapenko.

"I feel like definitely tennis is one of the sports that I'm proud to play in as a woman. I feel like we have a long way, especially here in Madrid and in Rome, in Europe in general.

"I feel like they need to respect women more and they need to respect how we are playing. Some things we feel it, and yeah, in maybe like a lot of things in practices, the way they treat women here and men, they're completely different. Maybe people from outside, they don't see it."

Ons Jabeur
Ons Jabeur © Getty Images Sport - Elsa

Lopez responds to Jabeur's criticism: 'Unfair'

During the 2023 Madrid Open, there were couple of situations that led to the tournament receiving criticism and scrutiny and dealing with claims that they were favoring men over women. After Jabeur unloaded on the Madrid Open, a negative attention and claims were again drawn to the tournament that hosts a Masters and WTA 1000 tournament. 

Responding to Jabeur, Lopez acknowledged that the Madrid Open made some mistakes in the past but also listed several reason why he feels Jabeur's criticism was "unfair."

“I think we did a few things last year that, I mean, shouldn’t happen, I have to say. And we learned from our mistakes," Lopez told Sky Sports.

“But I have to say that we were the same tournament to pay the same prize money to women and men. And so I don’t think it’s fair that someone might think that we are not treating men and women equally.

“We’re doing a great job I think at that matter so I understand the frustration on certain things because there are a lot of things that can happen during the tournament with transportation, with practice sessions. But we try to be equal, we try to be fair all the time. So I think we have to move on and try to be fair to everyone.”

Feliciano Lopez
Feliciano Lopez © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Lopez: We accept that we made some mistakes last year

Last year, the Madrid Open received criticism over dresses they provided to ball girls as some thought they were lacking in size. The tournament responded by providing the ball girls with longer tops and baggy shorts.

During the tournament, Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka both celebrated their birthdays - both received birthday cakes but the Spaniard's was significantly larger. That also led to the Madrid Open receiving criticism and more claims that they favor men over women.

At the time, Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, took to X, where she slammed the Madrid Open over their cake controversy. 

A few days later when Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff in the Madrid doubles final, another controversy happened after the two teams were denied opportunity to address the crowd and hold traditional trophy speech. Many thought the move was made to "silence" Azarenka and probably also prevent other doubles final participants to send a message. 

Now, Lopez admits what happened after the Madrid women's doubles final wasn't right. 

Feliciano Lopez
Feliciano Lopez © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

“Last year, I have to accept that there is things that - for example, that issue with the doubles finals, we apologised and we moved on and everyone’s happy. We have meetings with WTA players, ATP players, always willing to help and I think this is the most important thing that we move on and there’s a lot of things that we can still do in the future," Lopez acknowledged.

Feliciano Lopez Ons Jabeur Madrid Open