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Sharapova lobs back Simon's sexist jibe

TENNIS: Maria Sharapova hit out at Gilles Simon yesterday as women tennis players cranked up the criticism of the Frenchman over his claim that men deserve to be paid more because their game is more entertaining.

Simon caused outrage on Tuesday when he told a French radio station that he believes men deserve bigger prizes for winning grand slams as their matches are more interesting.

The 27-year-old stood by his comments yesterday, when quizzed about the matter for the first time since his interview, but there was growing condemnation from within the women's game.

World number one Sharapova offered the coldest rebuke when, after beating Tsvetana Pironkova 7-6 6-7 6-0, she said: "I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his...

"We women have fought so long to get equal prize money. It was a big challenge and nobody really supported us.

"It's been a few years since we've got that. We're all really proud of it, and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger, no matter what anyone says, or the criticisms that we get."

Serena Williams, a four-time SW19 champion, backed her rival's claim, adding: "Definitely a lot more people are watching Maria than Simon. She's way hotter than he is..."

Britain's Andy Murray also entered the debate, although he did not say whether he condemned or supported Simon's view.

The Scot did claim, however, that some women on the tour can earn more money as the less physical three-set games allow the top females to play in, and win, doubles competitions as well as singles.

"For the women, it's much easier to play singles and doubles, so (they) therefore (have) more chance to make money that way, because there's very few of the singles guys that have a chance or a realistic shot of winning the event will be playing doubles here," said Murray, who reached the third round of Wimbledon after beating the giant Ivo Karlovic 7-5 6-7 6-2 7-6.