Serena Williams has led condemnation after the Indian Wells tournament director claimed “lady players” are riding on the coattails of men’s tennis.
Raymond Moore, a 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa, oversees the $A9.2 million tournament in the California desert featuring the men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) tours.
But he’s at the centre of a firestorm for his remarks when asked if the WTA should raise the designation of their Indian Wells event.
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA because they ride on the coattails of the men,” said Moore.
“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.”
Moore made his comments to reporters before Sunday’s finals, and later issued an abject apology after they quickly appeared on social media.
Williams slammed Moore’s comments, calling them a disservice to Billie Jean King, one of the co-founders of the WTA Tour, female athletes and “every woman on this planet that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman”.
“Those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate,” said Williams after she lost 6-4 6-4 to Victoria Azarenka in the women’s final.
“Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that.”
King later tweeted: “Disappointed in (hashtag) Raymond Moore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”
Azarenka said such criticism toward women remained an issue in the world, including sports and business.
“What women do best is rise above those comments. You don’t hear complaints or bad comments towards men,” she said.
“If we rise above that and keep working hard in everything we do, we’re better. We’re better at taking opportunities and being graceful. It’s our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is.”
Moore cited Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Garbine Muguruza of Spain as being among the “attractive prospects” on the tour.
In a follow-up question, he was asked what he meant by attractive.
“They are physically attractive and competitively attractive,” he said. “They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop. They really have quite a few very, very attractive players.”
Moore later apologised in a written statement.
“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. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”