The tennis player at the center of a social media backlash at the Australian Open has hit back at critics after an on-court incident with a banana went viral.
Elliot Benchetrit, who came from behind to beat Dmitry Popko 4-6 6-2 6-3 in a qualifying round on Saturday, found himself embroiled in a sexism storm after video surfaced of the Frenchman asking a ball girl to peel a banana for him during a break in play.
The 21-year-old was swiftly told off by the chair umpire, John Blom, who informed him the ball girl “was not his slave,” according to Benchetrit.
Spectators on social media platforms were quick to jump on the exchange, with tennis legend Martina Navratilova even retweeting the video with the caption: “What’s next grapes? #entitlement. John did the right thing, that’s for sure.”
Now Benchetrit has offered his account of events, and insists he’s amazed at the furore.
‘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.”
Blom did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Benchetrit journey in Melbourne came to an end on Tuesday after he was defeated in straight sets 6-2 6-0 6-3 by Japan’s Yuichi Sugita in the first round.