Victoria Azarenka upset Serena Williams at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, downing the world’s top-ranked player, 6-4, 6-4, to win the sport’s unofficial fifth Grand Slam.
But Azarenka’s win, and the tournament’s final weekend as a whole, were overshadowed by the controversial comments tournament CEO Raymond Moore made about women’s tennis.
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the [Women’s Tennis Association], because they ride on the coattails of the men,” Moore said prior to the women’s final. “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.”
Moore, a 69-year-old former professional player from South Africa, also spoke about “attractive” women’s tennis players, including Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard, both of whom are 22:
More from Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore this morning, further down his remarks: pic.twitter.com/nXNATitvrR
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 20, 2016
In her press conference after the final, Williams was asked about Moore’s remarks and didn’t shy away from speaking her mind.
“I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” she said. “I think Venus, myself, a number of players — 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. 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.”
She went on:
There’s only one way to interpret that. ‘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.
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. So, 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, being proud to be a woman.
King took to Twitter to address Moore’s comments herself:
And during the broadcast of the ensuing men’s final, ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe called for Moore’s resignation:
“That was completely unacceptable, I’m absolutely livid,” McEnroe said.
Later on, Moore issued an apology on behalf of himself and the tournament:
“I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous.” he 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.”
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