Australian Open cops backlash over bizarre scenes involving ball kids

Viewers couldn't believe what they were witnessing during a rain delay at Melbourne Park.

Australian Open ball kids (pictured left) cleaning Rod Laver Arena and (pictured right) Elena Rybakina thanking the fans.
There has been backlash after Australian Open ball kids were seen using towels to wipe down Rod Laver Arena after rain in Melbourne during Elena Rybakina's quarter-final victory. (Images: @PhobessKatess/Getty Images)

The tennis world has been left baffled at Australian Open officials after ball kids were seen using towels to wipe down Rod Laver Arena after rain disrupted play. Melbourne's wild weather at this year's Australian Open continued on Tuesday as officials opted not to close the roof on Rod Laver Arena ahead of Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko's quarter-final clash.

At the beginning of the first set in the afternoon session, rain started to fall as officials opted to shut the roof as Rybakina and Ostapenko left the court. However, it was the scenes afterwards that had fans in attendance baffled.

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Despite all the technology on offer at grand slams, which include hawk-eye for every shot, ball kids were seen drying Rod Laver Arena with towels. Ball kids have been a major topic at this year's Australian Open.

Andy Murray raised the issue when he finished at 4am local time and said the late finishes were unfair on the ball kids and their parents. Considering ball kids are unpaid and work long hours, the Australian Open has copped some backlash this year.

And the latest images certainly caught the attention of the tennis world.

While it was only a short delay on Rod Laver Arena, it didn't halt Rybakina's momentum as she stormed into the Australian Open semi-final with a brilliant performance.

Elena Rybakina fights off weather to advance in Melbourne

Rybakina was in imperious form after defeating Iga Swiatek in the previous round and she continued her dominance after a straight sets win over Ostapenko.

The Kazakhstan champion was all over Ostapenko from the start as she didn't allow the Latvian any time to dominate from the baseline. Ostapenko was clearly frustrated and continued to question the line technology throughout the first set.

Rybakina didn't let up in the second set and was hitting the ball down the line with perfection. The 23-year-old closed out the match 6-2, 6-4. There was some controversy regarding the handshake with many viewers slamming Ostapenko for showing a lack of 'class' at the net.

Elena Rybakina (pictured left) during her on-court interview at the Australian Open.
Elena Rybakina (pictured left) has continued her strong form at the 2023 Australian Open. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Regardless, Rybakina said she just had to manage the weather delay in order to find her feet. "The conditions were different, but then we expected that it can happen in Australia. You never know," Rybakina said after the match.

"In the morning, one weather, then in a few hours it changes so you have to be ready always. There is the beauty of this sport. Everybody needs to adapt and I think I did really well from the beginning of the match."

The 23-year-old World No.25 broke the 17th-seeded Ostapenko twice in each set and finished with 24 winners to the Latvian's 19 in a dominant display. She sealed victory with her 11th ace after 79 minutes to take her Australian Open tally to a women's tournament-leading 35.

with AAP

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