Milan – The glitzy draw for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan which was designed to showcase the future of men's tennis has been branded a "disgrace", "awful" and taking the sport "back to zero".
Some of the sports leading players took to Twitter to blast the 'sexist' ceremony during which the young players had to choose female models who had the letter 'A' or 'B' hidden on their bodies, to determine the round-robin group in which they would play.
The inaugural event — an under-21 version of the ATP World Tour Finals — starts Tuesday in the Fiera Milano Exhibition Centre and brings together eight emerging stars tipped to rival Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
South Korean player Hyeon Chung was asked to pull off a female model's glove with his teeth during an evening designed as a tribute to Milan's famous links with the fashion industry.
"Disgrace", wrote former women's number one Amelie Mauresmo on her Twitter account, while fellow French player Alize Cornet wrote: "Good job @ATPWorldTour Supposed to be a futurist event right? #backtozero", as Judy Murray, mother of former men's number one Andy Murray tweeted "awful".
The event which is run by the ATP in partnership with the Italian Tennis Federation and the National Olympic Committee was causing little uproar in Italy where models are a regular feature at sporting events.
However, in a joint statement the ATP Tour and Red Bull apologised.
"ATP and Red Bull apologise for the offence caused by the draw ceremony for the Next Gen ATP Finals," said a statement.
"The intention was to integrate Milan's rich heritage as one of the fashion capitals of the world. However, our execution of the proceedings was in poor taste and unacceptable.
"We deeply regret this and will ensure that there is no repeat of anything like it in the future."
The tournament will also launch a list of new innovations in the sport including format, scoring and electronic line calls.
In Group A are Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov, Hyeon Chung and Gianluigi Quinzi, while Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Jared Donaldson and Daniil Medvedev make up Group B.
The top two from each will progress to the semi-finals, with the final next Saturday determining the best young player in the world with the winner earning $1.2 million.
— AmelieMauresmo (@AmeMauresmo) November 6, 2017
— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) November 6, 2017
— judy murray (@JudyMurray) November 6, 2017