French player, Elliot Benchetrit has reacted to criticisms he's received over an incident involving him and a ball girl during the qualifying rounds of the Australian Open.
Benchetrit was heavily criticized on Social Media after footage emerged of him asking a ball girl to help him peel a banana.
The incident happened during his match against Dmitry Popko in the final qualifying rounds on Saturday.
Chair umpire, John Blom appeared to reprimand the player, apparently telling him to peel the banana by himself. Benchetrit and the umpire then had a brief exchange before the ball girl, looking confused, handed the banana back to the player, who then peeled it with his teeth.
So this is the moment where Elliot Benchetrit asks the ballkid to peel his banana. I’m glad the umpire (John Blom) stepped in and told him off. pic.twitter.com/TK1GET68pG
— Alex Theodoridis (@AlexTheodorid1s) January 19, 2020
The incident sparked a sexism row on Social Media, with the legendary Martina Navratilova among many who condemned Benchetrit’s actions and commended the umpire for his stance on the matter. Navratilova retweeted a video of the incident, writing: ‘What’s next, grapes? John did the right thing, that’s for sure.’
Reacting to criticisms on Social Media, Benchetrit gave more details about the conversation between himself and the umpire, revealing that Blom had told him to peel the banana himself because the ball girl was “not his slave”.
The Frenchman also explained why he had offered the banana to the ball girl, saying he couldn’t peel it because he had applied cream on his hand to prevent sweating.
“At 6-5 in the final set, during the changeover, I asked the ball girl to peel the banana for me as I had put some cream on my hands in order not to sweat,” he said.
“She had done it once before at the beginning of the match. But the second time the chair umpire stepped in and told me that the ball girl was not my slave and I had to peel the banana myself. I could not believe that the umpire said that and I find incredible how this situation got out of control on social media without people knowing what really happened on court.”
The 21-year-old Benchetrit went on to win the match and qualify for the main draw, but his tournament ended on Tuesday following a straight sets defeat to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita.