Victoria Azarenka wants safeguarding improved for female players

Victoria Azarenka
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is 26th in the women’s singles rankings

Victoria Azarenka says tennis needs to improve safeguarding to stop “vulnerable young ladies getting taken advantage of”.

WTA Player Council member Azarenka made her comments after French player Fiona Ferro accused her former coach Pierre Bouteyre of rape and sexual assault.

A lawyer for Bouteyre told AFP he “recognises the relationship occurred but denies any coercion”.

“It’s a very sensitive subject,” said world number 26 Azarenka.

“You won’t hear those stories unless players come out and tell those stories,” the 33-year-old Belarusian added.

“It happens right and left on the tour, which is unfortunate.

“Our job is to be better at safeguarding. As a player council, it’s almost like the number one subject to us. Because we see those vulnerable young ladies getting taken advantage of in different situations.

“It’s really sad and really makes me emotional. If I had a daughter, I would have a question would she want to play tennis, that would be a very big concern in that way for me.”

American Pam Shriver, a winner of 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, told BBC Sport in April that she wants to see safer tennis coaching for all levels after revealing she was in an “inappropriate and damaging” relationship with former coach Don Candy during her playing career.

Azarenka added: “Just the recent story with Fiona Ferro that came out. I don’t know how to put it in words sometimes.

“All you can do is check in on the person and give your hand, ‘What I can do? What I can help with?’

“I applaud her for being brave. I hope this situation, she’s going to come out of it stronger and tennis is not ruined for her because of that. That’s, I think, a very, very heavy topic. But it’s the topic that has to come out more.”

The French Tennis Federation has said it is supporting Ferro and its sports integrity unit was looking at the matter.

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