By Julien Pretot
PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) – Female players should get prime time slots when they play if women’s tennis is to get a better audience, Billie Jean King said on Saturday amid a scheduling controversy at the French Open.
The 12-time singles Grand Slam champion, one of the sport’s stars in the 1960s and 1970s at the start of the professional era, backed Roland Garros director Amelie Mauresmo to fix the problem even after Mauresmo said men’s tennis was currently more appealing than women’s tennis.
“It will stay that way if we don’t have more matches (at night),” King told reporters ahead of the French Open women’s final.
“You’ve got to put women on prime time and you’ve got to figure it out.”
Only one of 10 night matches at this year’s Roland Garros – broadcast in France exclusively by Amazon’s Prime Video – was a women’s match.
According to King, two matches should be scheduled and start earlier than the usual 2100 local time to allow an early finish for all players.
“I think we should have two matches a night and start early,” she said.
King said she thought that Mauresmo, despite her controversial remark, would ring the changes.The two-time Grand web site Slam champion took over as French Open boss this year.
“I don’t make judgments first year. I think she’s done a great job and I think she’ll make some changes next year,” the American said.
“I always give two to three years, then I’m making judgment. Because I think you got to understand the job they have. It’s hard.
“She’s in an amazing position of power.But if (they) keep treating us like second-class citizens we will stay second-class citizens. You want to make everyone feel important.”
King insisted that Mauresmo would take care of the matter.
“I think normally we’ll take care of that next year.Knowing her. She’s a winner.” (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson)