To give the noble sport its due, tennis had escaped without too many controversial headlines for a whole week. And such a lull might well have continued for longer, had it not been for the pesky Indian Wells' Tennis Garden CEO. Raymond Moore, the man who occupies such a position, has claimed that the Womens' Tennis Association rides on the "coat-tails" of the men's game. He later admitted the following quote was made in " extremely poor taste":
When I come back in my next life I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coat-tails of the men.
They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.
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. They really have.
A fairly staggering assertion. Having disregarded their athletic capabilities, he then went about objectifying female tennis players Eugenie Bouchard and Garbiñe Muguruza. He described them as "attractive prospects", and then went about clarifying his neandertal position:
They are physically and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle leadership once Serena decides to stop. I think they’ve got … they really have quite a few very, very attractive players.
Bloody hell. World Number 1 Novak Djokovic was asked about the comments and whether male tennis players deserved more money than female players in the aftermath of his straight sets victory over Milos Roanic. Djokovic said that he believes male players should be paid more than female players, as he performed the verbal equivalent of grabbing a shovel, diving into the hole Moore had dug and continuing to dig:
Obviously it’s a very delicate situation. Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years. I have been through that process as well so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that.
I applaud them for that, I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve and they got it. On the other hand I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP 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. Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve.
As long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Djokovic then went about showing his mastery of the backhand with this 'compliment':
I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving.
Their bodies are much different to men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details. I have great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.
Many of them have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis and play professional sport. I have had a woman that was my coach and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I’m surrounded by women. I’m very happy to be married with one and to have a child. I’m completely for women power.
We think an advocate for 'women power' might call for equal pay. Serena Williams, who was shocked by Victoria Azarenka in the final the day after Moore's comments, responded admirably:
Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that. 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 very exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.
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 a final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not. There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not – we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.
We await Djokovic's clarification. Hopefully he will have thrown away the shovel by then.