Bouchard bounced into ‘Twirlgate’ by insensitive Australian reporter

Social media storm as World No 1 Serena Williams also asked to “do a little twirl”

Eugenie Bouchard had no idea the man with the microphone in his hand and mischief in his heart would ask her to "do a little twirl" to show off her outfit for the TV cameras and the crowd at the Australian Open in Melbourne this week.

What followed was an exercise in farce control, as journalists hungry for a story seized on social media criticism to portray the incident as “Twirlgate”.

The villain of the pantomime was Ian Cohen, a reporter who does the sort of low-level courtside interviews with players immediately after a match that would not be out of place in a holiday camp.

Bouchard, one of the rising stars of women’s tennis, had just won a match on Margaret Court Arena and complied, smiled and giggled – but looked as if she were taking part in someone else’s joke.


She said later: “It was very unexpected. I mean, yeah, I don’t know . . . An old guy asking you to twirl? It was funny.”

Cohen had started this running sketch by asking the world No 1, Serena Williams, a keen follower of fashion with her own label, to "do a little twirl" to show off some her colourful outfits. "Serena is good at her twirls," Bouchard said. "She does them all the time."

Backless dresses

When told that Williams was championing a new look in tennis gear with backless dresses, Bouchard smiled and replied: “She must know, like, what’s coming up in fashion and stuff. Maybe I should cut a hole in my top tonight and show off my back like Serena.”

Although it all seemed innocent enough, if juvenile, there has been no shortage of indignation since, much of it unconvincing harrumphing in the tabloid press. The local Herald-Sun fumed: "Channel 7 [the rival media company covering the Australian Open] has been slammed around the world after the incident, which comes a year after the network also came under fire for asking Bouchard about Justin Bieber. "

The “slamming” seemed to be coming mainly from within – and on Twitter, the modern waste basket of opinion, prejudice and nonsense.

Wendy Tuohy in the Herald-Sun, added: "Imagine the disgust if a female reporter had asked Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer to jiggle their behind for the cameras. I know, it wouldn't happen. Yet anything goes when it comes to the young women players in a game whose sexism is entrenched from the top down . . . .

“Demeaning treatment of women players is so widely accepted that some players feel they can say what they like with little fear of censure. In tennis coverage, the looks (and love lives) of the ‘girls’ are dissected like supermodels’.”

Tuohy added: “Last year at the Australian Open Bouchard was asked about a reported link with Justin Bieber. Nice. At the same event French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said the reason the women’s tour is less predictable is because female players are more ‘unstable’.”

Sport split

There is sexism in sport but it is often seized upon in tennis because it is a sport split by gender, men and women having their own governing bodies and tournaments, with women receiving less prize money and some men complaining about their intrusion.

When Andy Murray appointed Amélie Mauresmo as his coach last summer to replace Ivan Lendl, many players voiced their reservations, some more loudly than others – including the Australian Marinko Matosevic.

Known with slightly patronising affection as “Mad Dog”, Matosevic lost to Andy Murray in the second round in Melbourne on Wednesday, and repeated later his objection to female coaches on the grounds that men’s and women’s tennis were “two totally different sports”.

Then this week, British No1 Heather Watson lost her second-round match in Melbourne, collapsing in the second set when gripped by nausea She later let slip that it was a "girl thing". Ensuing media reaction ensured what what had been a private matter was now very public property and a lingering embarrassment. Guardian Service