Novak Djokovic claims male tennis stars should be awarded more prize money than women
World number one Novak Djokovic believes men should be awarded more prize money than women following a row sparked by comments from chief executive of Indian Wells Raymond Moore.
Speaking ahead of the BNP Paribas Final between Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, Moore said the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) was a "lucky organisation" which "rides on the coattails" of the men.
Seeming to overlook the 21 grand slams won by Williams - more than the 17 won by Roger Federer and 14 by Rafael Nadal - Moore added: "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 later apologised for his comments that were in "poor taste and erroneous" but the damage had been done by then and Djokovic added fuel to the fire.
Speaking after his straight-sets win over Milos Raonic in the men's final, the Serb said women deserve the money they get, but men should fight for more because their game attracts more viewers.
He said: "Obviously it's a very delicate situation. Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years.
"I have been through that process as well so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that.
"I applaud them for that, I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve and they got it. 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.
"I think that's one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.
"Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve.
"As long as it's like that and there is data and stats available upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed."
Djokovic insisted he was not entering a men versus women debate and accepted that women face more challenges than men to succeed in the game, including battling "hormones".
"I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving," he added.
"Their bodies are much different to men's bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don't have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don't need to go into details.
"I have great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.
"Many of them have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis and play professional sport.
"I have had a woman that was my coach and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I'm surrounded by women. I'm very happy to be married with one and to have a child.
"I'm completely for women power."
Williams had given her take on the situation by the time of Moore's apology after being asked about them in the wake of her defeat to Azarenka.
"Obviously I don't think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that," she said.
"I don't think that is a very accurate statement. I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are very exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.
"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 a final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not.
"There's only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not - we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."
Moore's comments were denounced by WTA CEO Steve Simon, who says he is proud of all of the "strong athletes" on the tour.
He said in a statement: "As the Tournament Director of one of the pre-eminent events in professional tennis, the comments made today by Raymond Moore were extremely disappointing and alarming.
"The WTA stands on its own and was founded on the principles of equality and empowerment. I am proud of all the strong athletes on the WTA who put in hard work and sacrifice every single day.
"Tennis as a whole is enriched by the contributions and accomplishments of every player, both female and male."