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Sports

US tennis official's comments on women's game sparks controversy

The director of the tennis tournament at Indian Wells has sparked controversy with comments made about women's tennis and its players. Both the men's and women's top players have also weighed in.

BNP Paribas Open chief executive and tournament director Raymond Moore (right) issued contentious statements related to women's tennis ahead of Sunday's men's and women's finals at Indian Wells, California.

The 69-year-old South African, a former tennis player himself, told reporters that the top-level women's players were riding "on the coattails of the men" and were "very, very lucky" to earn equal prize money.

"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 said.

He also singled out Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Spain's Garbine Muguruza as being among the "physically attractive and competitively attractive" women's players.

Scathing response

Not surprisingly, women's No. 1 Serena Williams, who lost in the final to Victoria Azarenka, delivered a scathing response to Moore's comments.

"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 said.

USA Tennisprofi Serena Williams in New York

Serena Williams met Raymond Moore's comments with a direct response

"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," she added.

The Serbian men's No. 1 player partially supported Williams in his response, saying that Moore's comments were "not politically correct" and that women players had "fought for what they deserve, and they got it".

However, while not taking anything away from the women, Djokovic, who beat Canada's Milos Raonic in the final, suggested that the men should make even more money than they earn now.

"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."

'Truly sorry'

For his part, Moore has issued a statement apologizing for his Sunday morning comments.

"At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous," Moore said. "I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologise 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."

pfd/dv (AFP, Reuters)