Alize Cornet may have been publicly reprimanded for briefly exposing her sports bra during the U.S. Open on Tuesday, but she was much less angry about the incident than fans were.
The French Tennis player, 28 — who’s ranked number 31 in the world — addressed the controversy during a press conference on Wednesday, saying she thought it was “very fair” for U.S. Open officials to apologize for the incident and that she “really appreciated it” — but also that she wasn’t that phased by it.
During her match against Johanna Larsson in Queens, New York, on Tuesday, Cornet left the court for a 10-minute extreme heat break and changed her attire in a locker room. When she returned, she realized that she had put her shirt on backwards.
In the video shared by ESPN, Cornet can be seen jogging to the side of the court, removing her top and briefly exposing her black sports bra before putting the shirt back on. Before play could resume, the chair umpire called to Cornet that she would receive a code violation for removing her shirt on the court.
“This is not okay,” the umpire said, with Cornet visibly reacting in confusion.
The incident almost immediately caused an uproar, with critics calling the United States Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, sexist because male players often take their shirts off on the court. Soon after, the USTA apologized in a statement and explained that the violation should never have happened because Cornet did not actually break any rules.
“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think this code violation would become so famous in less than 24 hours,” Cornet said to the press. “I’m very surprised about it actually, to be honest, because on the court it seemed like a mistake from the umpire and nothing else.”
She added, “The umpire was probably overwhelmed by the situation. Maybe he just didn’t make the right decision. I didn’t expect it. I told him it was pretty weird… I was trying to win my match so I just got over it pretty fast. I don’t involve the USTA in all of this. They apologized to me very quickly.”
Cornet also shared that she received an outpouring of support from fellow female players. “It was pretty crazy,” she recalled. “When I came in this morning in the locker room, many players came to me… and they were giving me all their support… all the players were… telling me if I get fined we will all be together and… make a revolution… I was like, calm down, I’m going to get the information first and then we make a revolution… It was kind of a family. It feels nice.”
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Because the violation drummed up concerns about sexism in tennis, Cornet also addressed the difference between how men and women are treated on court. But, asserted Cornet, “Yesterday was a mistake by one person. It doesn’t involve the WTA, the USTA, anything. I want to be clear about it. I didn’t take it that bad. I was maybe disturbed for 10 seconds.”
Cornet, instead, pointed to the recent comments French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli made about the skin-tight black Spandex catsuit Serena Williams wore at the French Open. “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” he said earlier this week. “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”
During the press conference, Cornet said the “totally shocking” comments came from someone who “lives in another time” and were “10,000 times worse than what happened to me on the court yesterday because… he doesn’t have to do that… This kind of person doesn’t help the work that we’re all doing to make it more fair for women.”
But overall, Cornet was optimistic about improvements for women in tennis, saying, “Of course it can be better in the equity between men and women, but I think we’re on the right path. I really do.”
On Tuesday, Williams, 36, seemed unbothered by Giudicelli’s remarks about her catsuit, which she previously said improves her circulation and makes her “feel like a warrior” and a “queen from Wakanda,” the fictional country in Marvel’s Black Panther.
During her match against Poland’s Magda Linette, the mom of one wore a subtle tutu look by designer Virgil Abloh. She also sported fishnet stockings and custom sparkly Off-White sneakers that featured her name on the outer sole, also by Abloh.