Victoria Azarenka scored a major victory taking the Indian Well title over World No 1 Serena Williams. But her comeback story was overshadowed by the controversial remarks made by the tournament director, Raymond Moore.
Imagine if you are the CEO of probably the 5th biggest event in the tennis world. Like the four other grand slams, your event features the best tennis players on this planet. The upcoming women’s final will feature a blockbuster clash between 21 Grand Slam Winner Serena Williams and former no.1 Victoria Azarenka.
This is the moment. The whole world is watching.
On this final day, you hold a media session with the on-site press to discuss your tournament. You are in control. You know you are on camera and that the whole thing is transcribed. After months of hard work, the last thing left to do now is to tell the media how great your event is, deliver your thanks and talk about the boring admin stuff before going to watch the tennis, no?
Not if you are Raymond Moore, who rocked the boat by delivering the jaw-dropping claims that Women Tennis Association was a “lucky organisation” and women should be grateful because they are “riding on the coattails of the men”.
“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.”
Back on the courts, all the so-called “lady” players are already busting their knees to smash their forehands and retrieve delicate drop shots. Yet according to Moore, they are expected to go down their knees every night to pray to the GOAT because, we women, are so not worthy. Never mind the other lower ranked male players, who too, are riding on the same coat tails of the said players.
Moore had great things to say about Serena the Great but shot himself in the foot again when he talked about the very attractive future prospects in women tennis.
“They are physically attractive and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop. I think they’ve got … they really have quite a few very, very attractive players.”
Is the euphoria of the final getting to his head? Did he have a few pre-game margaritas too many? As a CEO, he must be aware that he will have one foot out of the door by making this damning remarks. And if there is a lesson somewhere for future entrepreneurs on how not to self-destruct yourself and ruin your brand, this will be it.
The condemnation from the tennis community was swift and Moore apologised for his “extremely poor taste”. But it is way too late for damage control as his words have taken a life of their own and are overshadowing everything else from his own tournament or even tennis itself.
In a double whammy for the community, the usually diplomatic Novak Djokovic chose to open the Pandora’s box when asked to respond to the director’s controversial remarks,
“On the other hand, I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches.”
The World No.1 stated he was all about “women power” as he proclaimed that women faced many challenges which include “hormones”.
Djokovic didn’t get the memo that equal pay is here to stay, it seems. Obviously, he has the right to his own views. But perhaps this is not the right time to bring up your pet peeve and divert the attention away from your female colleagues who are still fighting for equality. 1973 has called, and it looks like we still have not progressed from the time Billie Jean King took down Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes.
Another outcry soon ensured and Djokovic had to backtrack his words by blaming “adrenaline”. Ahh, those pesky hormones!
To nobody’s surprise, Raymond Moore eventually resigned from his position as the tournament director of Indian Wells. Did he have his common sense smacked into his head by Serena Williams’s booming aces while kneeling down on the floor?
Speaking of the Williams, the queen is here to save the day and she easily slayed all the haters.
“Obviously, I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” Williams said. “I think there is a lot of women out there who are more — 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. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.”
As compared to many sports, tennis is considered to be a more egalitarian affair with equal prize money for Grand Slams and mixed events. Tennis pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Chris Evert have paved the way for women’s professional involvement in the sports. Female tennis players have dominated the top 10 in the list of The Women’s Highest-paid athletes in 2015. The typical tennis fan is just as familiar with the exploits of Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal as they are with Steffi Graf and The Williams sisters.
Yet women’s average earnings in other WTA tournament are still much lower than men. As we can see the events from last week, the gender gap still persists. From time to time, sexism does rear its ugly head from little demeaning remarks about the WTA from men in power to larger worrying incidents like the Raymond Moore official comments to the media.
There is hope for us all, though. We are very lucky to have strong role models like Serena who is not afraid to rip open the offensive remarks and take a powerful stand on sexism.
“Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men. I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.
So I just feel like in order to make a comment you have to have history and you have to have facts and you have to know things. You have to know of everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women’s players but women athletes in general.
So I feel like, you know, 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 and being proud to be a woman.”
You go, Serena!