NEW YORK (AP) — A professional tennis player from France who reached a career-high ranking of No. 39 last year has accused her former coach of rape and sexual assault.
The French Tennis Federation said in a statement Saturday that it is “standing by” Fiona Ferro, a 25-year-old who lost in qualifying at the U.S. Open last week, “in the proceedings she has initiated against her former coach, Pierre Bouteyre.”
The federation added that it “is examining the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit in this case.”
Ferro wrote on social media about her accusation against Bouteyre and said, “I did not consent.”
“I have full confidence in the justice system of my country and confirm that I do not wish to make any other statement on the criminal investigation,” Ferro said.
The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, which Ferro has done.
Ferro is the latest female tennis player to bring 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 to see a full investigation and legal process being pursued,” WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder wrote in an email Saturday. “The WTA is dedicated to ensuring a safe environment across our tour. Safeguarding requires vigilance, and we are continuing to invest in education, training, and resources to improve our efforts.”
After winning her third-round match at the U.S. Open on Saturday, two-time Australian Open champion Viktoria Azarenka was asked about the manipulation and exploitation of young players by coaches.
She said the WTA player council, of which she’s a member, considers safeguarding a “No. 1 subject ... because we see those vulnerable young ladies that (are) getting taken advantage of in different situations.”
Mentioning Ferro, Azarenka said: “I applaud her for being brave. I hope this situation, she’s going to come out of it stronger and tennis is not ruined for her because of that. That’s, I think, a very, very heavy topic. But it’s the topic that has to come out more.”
In March, a tennis player held a news conference after suing the U.S. Tennis Association, saying the governing body failed to protect her from a coach who she says sexually abused her at one of its training centers when she was 19.
Kylie McKenzie said that coach Anibal Aranda touched her inappropriately at the USTA’s training center in Orlando, Florida, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in central Florida. The lawsuit says Aranda, who was employed by the USTA for about seven years and later fired, used his position as a USTA coach to get access to vulnerable female athletes.
In April, former tennis player Pam Shriver, now a TV commentator, revealed in a first-person account published by British newspaper The Telegraph that she “had an inappropriate and damaging relationship with my much older coach” that began when she was 17 and he was 50.
After word of Ferro’s accusation emerged, Shriver tweeted: “Sending my best support to Fiona Ferro. The best way to improve safeguarding, is to tell our stories.”
Ferro has two career titles and reached the fourth round of the 2020 French Open for the best Grand Slam showing of her career. She is ranked 259th currently.
“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 federation. “The FFT’s sports integrity unit is currently assisting her and we will do everything we can to help her rebuild her life.”