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U.S. Tennis Assn. will allow female players to change shirts on court

Tennis officials’ preoccupation with women players’ attire took a turn for the better on Wednesday, when the U.S. Tennis Assn. changed its policy to say all female competitors can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. The organization also issued an apology to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, who was assessed a code violation for briefly taking off her shirt to turn it around during her first-round U.S. Open match on Tuesday.

Cornet changed her shirt during a break in her match against Johanna Larson but realized when she returned to the court that she had put the shirt on backward. She lifted the shirt, revealing a sports bra underneath, and turned the garment around. She was given a code violation even though male players have been permitted to take their shirts off on the court without sanctions.

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Male and female players protested officials’ decision to issue the code violation against Cornet, saying the ruling was unfair and unrealistic. The uproar followed the French Tennis Federation’s recent announcement that it would not let Serena Williams again wear the catsuit she had worn at this year’s French Open. Williams said the catsuit’s compression helped minimize the risk of blood clots, a problem she has long battled.

“All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a Code Violation,” the USTA public relations department said in a statement Wednesday morning. “We regret that a Code Violation was assessed to Ms. Cornet yesterday. We have clarified the policy to ensure this will not happen moving forward. Fortunately, she was only assessed a warning with no further penalty or fine.

“Female players, if they choose, may also change their shirts in a more private location close to the court, when available. They will not be assessed a bathroom break in this circumstance.”

The Women's Tennis Assn. also issued a statement. "The code violation that USTA handed to Alize Cornet during her first round match at the US Open was unfair and it was not based on a WTA rule, as the WTA has no rule against a change of attire on court," the statement said. "The WTA has always been and always will be a pioneer for women and women’s sports. This code violation came under the Grand Slam rules and we are pleased to see the USTA has now changed this policy. Alize did nothing wrong."

Separately, the USTA said Wednesday’s matches will be played under an Extreme Heat Policy. That means female players can request a 10-minute break between the second and third set of their matches, and male players can take a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets of their matches. Temperatures were expected to rise to the upper 90s for the second straight day and the humidity was expected to reach uncomfortable levels.

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