Tennis in spotlight again as executive apologises for 'poor taste' comments about women players
The chief executive of Indian Wells has apologised to the women's game for comments in which he said female players should drop to their knees and "thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born".
Speaking ahead of the BNP Paribas Final between Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams, Raymond Moore said the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) was a "lucky organisation" which "rides on the coattails" of the men.
Moore also went on to comment on the attractiveness of some players.
Responding to a question about where he sees his event sitting on the WTA tour, he was quoted as saying: "No, I think the WTA... you know, in my next lifetime 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."
Seeming to overlook the 21 grand slams won by Williams - more than the 17 won by Federer and 14 by 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 did add that Williams and the suspended Maria Sharapova were "superstars", going on to say Williams could be the greatest player of all-time.
"It's one of those things where one lady has come in and dominated," he said of Williams. "You can't provide for that. Serena, as I said earlier, is arguably the best female player of all time.
"But the WTA have a handful - not just one or two - but they have a handful of very attractive prospects than can assume the mantle. You know, Garbine Muguruza, Genie Bouchard. They have a lot of very attractive players. And the standard in ladies tennis has improved unbelievably."
Asked if he was referring to Bouchard and Muguruza's looks when he used the word 'attractive', Moore said: "No, no, no, I don't - I mean both. They are physically attractive and competitively attractive."
But Moore quickly released a statement through the tournament's official website, which read: "At my morning breakfast with the media I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneus.
"I am truly sorry for those remarks and apologise to all the players and the 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."
Serena Williams has given her take on the situation by this point after being asked about Moore's comments 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."
Serena Williams returned to Indian Wells in 2015 after a 14-year boycott owing to her feeling racially victimised. Venus returned to play in 2016.
Press Association Sport contacted the WTA for a response to Moore's comments.