Indian Wells has a perfect, almost whiter than white reputation. The closest thing to a grand slam that you can get. Fantastic fan friendly facilities, comfy seats an amazing backdrop and some of the best arenas anywhere in the world. Sadly today the day after the culmination of the tournament we are talking about the ill advised comments of the tournament director, who told the news media on Sunday morning that female tennis players were “lucky” and owed their status to stars of the men’s game.
Raymond Moore was speaking ahead of the finals on Sunday. Moore, a 69-year-old South African, is a former player and helped build the Indian Wells facility with Oracle owner Larry Ellison. He assumed tournament directorship this year when Steve Simon stepped down to become chief executive of the WTA.
“In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coat tails of the men,” Moore said. “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 also commented that the women’s game was poised for success in the future with “very attractive prospects,” whom he later clarified were “physically attractive and competitively attractive.”
Moore has certainly put his foot in it and quickly retracted his comments saying they were taken out of context. He has created somewhat of a storm in the tennis world with top players taking sides. Serena Williams came out strongly in defence of the ladies game and pointed up that the US Open ladies final 2015 sold out long before the mens final ever did.
Djokovic argued that the comments were politically incorrect but was not scathing at all in his criticism. Billy Jean King who helped found the WTA tour all those years ago came out and said she was disappointed by Moore’s remarks.
“He is wrong on so many levels,” King wrote. “Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”
The tournament issued an apology from Moore during the men’s final.
“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.”
Sexist and illadvised?
Moore’s comments are likely to ignite the pay debate which has simmered quietly in the background for years now. The arguments for men receiving more pay are down to the fact that men play best of 5 sets and women only play best of 3. Djokovic weighed in yesterday and stated that men should be paid more as the statistics show that more fans are attracted to the mens game than the ladies. Women have frequently claimed they are happy to play the slams best of 5 sets but it appears that neither fans or the media have the appetite for such a female feast.
When I think of the biggest names in the world I think Roger, Serena, Maria , Rafa and Djokovic. There are others too but certainly I enjoy a ladies game and not just the men. From a fans point of view the ladies game is a good spectacle but I feel perhaps there is less variety in the womens game than the mens. There is also the lack of potential champions like Serena and Vika. Does this entitle the men to greater prize money? Absolutely not.
Women for so long have been the second class citizens of the own sport. Pioneers like Billy Jean King have fought for womens rights and pay and women deserve absolutely everything they get. We can look at the dominance of the mens big 4 and as tennis fans how lucky we are to be able to celebrate such incredible players. But sure hasn’t Serena Williams done incredible things on court too? The men and women are just different, no better or worse than each other. But it must be said that without one the other would be a lot weaker. Tennis needs to stick together!