French tennis player accuses ex-coach of sexual assault

NEW YORK (AP) — A professional tennis player from France, who achieved a career-high ranking of 39 last year, has accused her former coach of rape and sexual assault.

The French tennis federation said in a statement on Saturday that he was “standing by” Fiona Ferro, a 25-year-old who lost in qualifying at the . US Open last week “in the proceedings she initiated against her former coach Pierre Bouteyre”.

The federation added that it was “assessing the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit in this case”.

Ferro wrote on social media about her allegation against Bouteyre, saying: “I did not agree.”

“I have full confidence in my country’s judicial system and confirm that I have no further explanations regarding the criminal investigation,” Ferro said.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, which Ferro did.

Ferro is the latest tennis player to draw attention to the issue of protecting athletes from predatory coaches.

“We applaud Fiona for having the courage to come forward with these allegations. We are pleased that a full investigation and legal process will be initiated,” WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder wrote in an email on Saturday. “The WTA is committed to maintaining a safe environment throughout our tour. Protection requires vigilance and we continue to invest in education, training and resources to enhance our efforts.”

After winning her third-round match at the US Open on Saturday, two-time Australian Open champion Viktoria Azarenka was questioned about the manipulation and exploitation of young players by coaches.

She said the WTA Players Council, of which she is a member, is considering a “no. 1 issue…because we see these vulnerable young ladies who are (are) being taken advantage of in various situations.

Mentioning Ferro, Azarenka said, “I applaud her for being brave. I hope she emerges stronger from this situation and that tennis isn’t ruined for her because of that. I think that’s a very, very difficult subject. But it is the issue that needs to come out more.”

In March, a tennis player held a press conference after suing the US Tennis Associationand said the Governing Body failed to protect her from a trainer she says sexually abused her when she was 19 at one of its training centers.

Kylie McKenzie said coach Anibal Aranda inappropriately touched her at the USTA’s training center in Orlando, Fla., according to a lawsuit filed in central Florida federal court. The lawsuit says Aranda, who was employed by the USTA for about seven years and was later fired, used his position as a USTA coach to gain access to vulnerable female athletes.

In April, former tennis player Pam Shrivernow a television commentator, revealed in an I Report published by British newspaper The Telegraph that she “had an inappropriate and damaging relationship with my much older coach” which began when she was 17 and he was 50.

After Ferro’s charges broke, Shriver tweeted, “Sending my strongest support to Fiona Ferro. The best way to improve protection is to tell our stories.”

Ferro has two career titles and reached the fourth round of the 2020 French Open for a career-best Grand Slam performance. It is currently ranked 259th.

“We would like to express our support for Fiona Ferro while respecting the presumption of innocence at a time that we know is particularly difficult for her,” said Gilles Moretton, president of the French FA. “FFT’s Sports Integrity Unit is currently supporting her and we will do everything we can to help her rebuild her life.”

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More AP coverage of US Open Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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