The tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open criticized the WTA Tour on Sunday, saying women's pro tennis players "ride on the coattails of the men" while describing them as "physically attractive and competitively attractive."
Raymond Moore, a 69-year-old former touring pro from South Africa, oversees the $7 million US tournament in the California desert featuring the men's and women's tours. He made his comments in a session with reporters before Sunday's finals, and they quickly appeared on social media.
Top-ranked Serena Williams objected, saying, "Those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate."
'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.' - Raymond Moore, tennis tournament director
Moore was asked if the WTA Tour should change its designation for the Indian Wells tournament, which is a premier mandatory event, to raise its status even higher.
"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. They don't make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky," he said. "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."
Williams said after she lost 6-4, 6-4 to Victoria Azarenka in the final: "Obviously I don't think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that."
Williams called Moore's comments 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."
Williams' comments came just after Victoria Azarenka praised her for her contributions to the WTA and tennis as a whole.
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 apologized 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 apologize 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."
Billie Jean King, one of the co-founders of the WTA Tour, 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."
Asked about Moore's comments, top-ranked Novak Djokovic said, "We have to be fair to say that it's not politically correct."
Djokovic was coached by a woman early in his career, and he noted that women pros often delay or sacrifice having families to play professionally, something men don't face.
"I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving," he said. "I'm completely for women power."
However, Djokovic said he thought the men's game drew more spectators, and he offered some hamfisted comments about women having to endure much more physically on the tour than men - "You know, the hormones and different stuff — we don't need to go into details."
One of the many ironies of Raymond Moore's remarks is that this men's final is going to get more or less no coverage now. WTA wins the day.— @BenRothenberg