Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard React to Australian Open Twirl Request

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2015

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22:  Serena Williams of the United States reacts to a point in her second round match against Vera Zvonareva of Russia during day four of the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard find themselves at the centre of a sexism row at the Australian Open, after Channel 7's Ian Cohen asked both to "give a twirl" in front of the Melbourne crowd.

Continue for updates.

Bouchard Laughs Off Controversy

Friday, Jan. 23

Bouchard attempted to quash growing discontent over the "twirl" request on Friday, raising her own tongue-in-cheek solution, per BBC Sport:

I'm not offended. I'm fine with being asked to twirl if they ask the guys to flex.

I think it was an in-the-moment thing and it was funny.

Serena Uncomfortable with "Twirl" Request

Thursday, Jan. 22

Serena Williams commented on allegations of sexism at the Australian Open after she and Canadian player Bouchard were asked to spin around while being interviewed on court by Channel 7's Ian Cohen.

As noted by the Press Association, via the Guardian, Cohen asked them to “give a twirl” after their early-round victories. Williams—seeking a sixth career win at the Melbourne-based tournament—played down claims of sexism, but insisted it’s not something the top players in the men’s game would be asked to do:

A commentator asked me to twirl. I wouldn’t ask Rafa [Nadal] or Roger [Federer] to twirl. Whether it’s sexist or not, I don’t know. I can’t answer that.

I didn’t really want to twirl because I was just like, you know, I don’t need all the extra attention. But, yeah, it was fine.

I don’t think and look that deep into it. Life is far too short to focus on that. We have so many other problems we want to deal with that we should focus on. Whether I twirl or not, it’s not the end of the world. It’s about being positive and just moving forward.

In the same piece, Bouchard—who looked noticeably awkward after the interviewer’s request—expressed her bemusement. “It was very unexpected”, said the 20-year-old. “I mean, yeah, I don’t know. An old guy asking you to twirl, it was funny.”

The incident left Bouchard noticeably uncomfortable.
The incident left Bouchard noticeably uncomfortable.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Here’s a look at the moment in question:

The Canadian has burst onto the scene as one of the elite players in the women's game. She is seeded seventh and in search of her first Grand Slam title. This incident has done plenty to detract from the fact that Bouchard looks primed for a prolonged run in the competition; the 2014 Wimbledon finalist was scintillating in her 6-3, 6-0 second-round win over Kiki Bertens.

TV4 Sweden anchor Anna Brolin thinks the reporter in question should be banned:

By contrast, the Geelong Advertiser's Nick Wade believes the incident has been blown out of proportion:

The requests were indeed bizarre from Cohen and hopefully will not happen again. Bouchard looked very uneasy in particular, and for her—indeed, even for those watching on—it was an awkward incident to which she shouldn't be subjected.

Fashion and tennis are closely linked, but Cohen's request was a step too far.
Fashion and tennis are closely linked, but Cohen's request was a step too far.Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tennis is a sport that is closely linked with fashion, and there is often intense speculation regarding the outfits donned by some of the top figures in the game. Indeed, Roger Federer's cardigans at Wimbledon (above) have often stirred up discussion, as did Rafael Nadal's shorts earlier in the week, per BBC Tennis:

That's all well and good, but to be asked to flaunt the clothing worn by twirling does overstep the mark significantly.

Ultimately, the likes of Williams and Bouchard are in attendance as athletes, not models, and they should be treated as such.