Victoria Azarenka says tennis needs to improve protection to prevent ‘vulnerable young ladies from being taken advantage of’
WTA Player Council member Azarenka spoke out after French player Fiona Ferro accused her former coach Pierre Bouteyre of rape and sexual assault.
A lawyer for Bouteyre told AFP he “acknowledges the relationship but denies any coercion”.
“It’s a very sensitive issue,” said world No. 26 Azarenka.
“You won’t hear these stories unless the players come out and tell these stories,” added the 33-year-old Belarusian.
“It’s happening left and right on the Tour, which is unfortunate.
“Our job is to protect better. As a players’ council, it’s almost the number one topic for us. Because we see these vulnerable young ladies being taken advantage of in different situations.
“It’s really sad and makes me really emotional. If I had a daughter, I would have a question, if she would like to play tennis, that would be a very big concern for me in that regard.”
American Pam Shriver, a winner of 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, said BBC Sport in April that she would like to see safer tennis training for all levels after revealing she was in an “inappropriate and abusive” relationship with former coach Don Candy during her playing career.
Azarenka added: “Just the recent story with Fiona Ferro. Sometimes I don’t know how to put them into words.
“All you can do is look up to the person and shake your hand, ‘What can I do? What can I help with?’
“I applaud her for being brave. I hope that she comes out of this situation stronger and that it doesn’t ruin tennis for her. I think that’s a very, very difficult subject. But it’s the subject that has more coming out.”
The French Tennis Federation has said it supports Ferro and its Sports Integrity Unit has looked into the matter.