World number one Serena Williams ripped “offensive” remarks by Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore, who claimed women’s tennis was riding on the coattails of the men’s game.
“If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were
born, because they have carried this sport,” Moore, a 69-year-old former player from South Africa told reporters at
his annual state of the tournament press conference on Sunday morning.
Not surprisingly, 21-time Grand Slam champion Williams was scathing in her response.
“Obviously, I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” Williams said.
“If I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister, I couldn’t even bring up that number,” Williams said.
“So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement. I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.”
Williams said she quickly became aware of Moore’s remarks on social media, even though she was busy Sunday morning preparing to meet Victoria Azarenka in the women’s final which the Belarusian won in straight sets.
A swift backlash had Moore issuing an apology even before the men’s Masters final between Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic was completed.
“At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and
erroneous,” Moore said in a statement. “I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole.
“We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”
But Williams said there was no mistaking their meaning. “You know, there’s only one way to interpret that,” she
said. “Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man … we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”
Williams acknowledged that she was surprised to find gender-related controversy continuing to crop up in a sport
that has pioneered equal compensation for women competitors – sometimes over the objections of their male counterparts.
“Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men. I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women’s players but women’s athletes in general.”
“I feel like that is such a disservice to her and every female, not only a female athlete but every woman on this
planet, that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman.”
Disappointed in #RaymondMoore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) March 20, 2016
Now is the Golden Era 4 men, no doubt, but women have worked,fought harder,and have been bigger draws many times. https://t.co/zojHd9WAkH
— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) March 20, 2016
Moore also singled out Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza as being among the “very attractive prospects” on the WTA circuit tour, before explaining that they were “physically attractive and competitively attractive”.
World number one Novak Djokovic said Moore’s comments were “not politically correct” and that women players had “fought for what they deserve, and they got it”.
However, he also suggested the men’s tour should receive more money as it draws more fans.
“On the other hand, I think that our men’s tennis world … should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”
Fellow American Chris Evert, an 18-time grand slam champion, tweeted: “Now is the Golden Era 4 men, no doubt, but women have worked, fought harder, and have been bigger draws many times.”