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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Protest over 'sexist' ball girls
By Katya Adler
BBC correspondent in Madrid

A model ball girl
Some critics complained the models might distract the tennis stars
A senior Spanish government official has asked organisers of the Madrid Masters tennis tournament to stop using models as ball-girls.

Second seed Andre Agassi has also expressed misgivings, saying he was not convinced that it was the way to promote tennis.

The arrival of the models, who wear short skirts and skin-tight black tops, has already stirred up controversy.

Some feared they were trivialising the game and might distract players.

But Soledad Murillo, Spain's Secretary for Equality, has taken the issue a step further.

Employing the 19- to 28-year-old models instead of volunteer young tennis fans to pick up stray balls and hand towels to players was sexist and unsporting, she said.

A model hands Andre Agassi a towel

Ms Murillo has sent a protest letter to the tournament director, a major sponsor and the Madrid mayor.

On court, where the tournament has reached the third round stage, the players may be charmed but they aren't all convinced.

The models received only two weeks of training prior to the Madrid Masters.

After a match in which the umpire had to remind a confused ball-girl to return to the side of the net, Andre Agassi said he was less than impressed.

Country profile: Spain
28 Sep 04  |  Country profiles

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