Sports / Tennis

Djokovic backs off money remarks

By Agence France Presse In Miami (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-24 08:29

World No 1 tries to clarify stand on pay equality

World No 1 Novak Djokovic on Tuesday backed off comments that men's tennis players should make more than women as Serena Williams and Andy Murray led a stinging chorus of criticism at the remarks.

A furious row over the gender pay gap in tennis erupted over the weekend when Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore said women should get "on their knees" to thank male players for the money in the sport.

Moore apologized before resigning late on Monday.

Djokovic fueled the controversy after stating he believes the pay gap is justified, adding women go through "hormones and different stuff".

Williams, who has won 21 Grand Slam singles crowns to 11 for Djokovic, condemned the Serbian superstar's remarks.

"It has been, I would say disappointing," Williams said on Tuesday.

"I wouldn't say my son deserved more money than my daughter because he's a man. It would be shocking."

Djokovic has a 17-month-old son, Stefan, but Williams openly wondered how he would explain himself to a future daughter.

"He's entitled to his opinion," Williams said. "If he had a daughter, he has a son right now, he should talk to his daughter and say, 'Your brother deserves more money than you'.

"I would never use sex to compare. We have so many great players, men and women, who have brought so much vision to the sport. Every athlete works extremely hard.

"If I had a son and a daughter, I would never tell them one deserves more because of their sex."

Britain's Murray said Djokovic's contention that men should receive less than women if their matches were less well attended, citing an example of how many would show up to watch if Williams and Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovski each had a match in a ticketed session.

"I think there should be equal pay 100 percent," Murray said.

"The whole thing doesn't stand up. It depends on the matches day by day. The men's game has had some great rivalries for the past few years. The whole of tennis should strengthen from that, not just the men's game."

Djokovic later issued a statement on Facebook, offering a qualified apology for his comments, which he said had been made while he was affected by the "euphoria and adrenalin" of his triumph at Indian Wells.

"I've made some comments that are not the best articulation of my view, and I would like to clarify them," Djokovic said.

"We all have to fight for what we deserve. This was never meant to be made into a fight between genders and differences in pay, but in the way all players are rewarded for their play and effort.

"This was my view all along, and I want to apologize to anyone who has taken this the wrong way."

'We don't deserve less'

Murray also said he was baffled to hear of Moore's outburst ahead of Sunday's final, that Victoria Azarenka beat Williams 6-4, 6-4.

"You had it before a great women's final with 16,000 people," Murray said.

"The whole thing was pretty strange and pretty disappointing coming right before a final like that. It didn't make sense."

Japan's Kei Nishikori also weighed in.

"You see great women's tennis too," he said.

"A lot of people want to see women's tennis, especially Serena."

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova called Djokovic's comments "very disappointing".

"We are training 100 percent the same as the men. We're more troubled with hormones and other things? He should not have said what he said."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka agreed, saying: "What Novak said was not right at all."

Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska said: "We work so hard for this, spend so much time practicing.

"I don't think we do any less than the men. We don't deserve less prize money."

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