Saturday 18 November 2017

BBC tennis commentator under fire for sexist remark about English underdog's girlfriend

Patrick Sawer

BBC commentator Andrew Castle sparked a new Wimbledon sexism row after making what viewers described as “creepy” comments about the girlfriend of Britain’s unlikely tennis hero Marcus Willis.

Castle, a former player, was commentating on Willis’ defeat to Roger Federer on Centre Court when he said of Jennifer Bate, a dental surgeon: “It's a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that.”

He apologised for his televised remarks, but had earlier accused his critics of lacking a sense of humour and hit back at accusations of sexism.

In 2013 John Inverdale, the BBC commentator, was forced to apologise after saying of the French player Marion Bartoli, before her appearance in that year’s Wimbledon women’s final: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker’?”

Castle’s comments about Miss Bate, 30, prompted an angry backlash from BBC viewers who criticised him on social media for making “lecherous” remarks.

Read more: 'Arrogant, cold and totally unlikeable': Banned Maria Sharapova certainly isn't missed in tennis

Jen Martin, a IT programme manager from Nottingham, said: “Any chance Andrew Castle could cut out the horribly creepy and sexist remarks?”

Henna Khan-Hussain, a broadcaster and voice over artist from Harrogate, described the comments as “really bad, patronising, rude, just embarrassing”, while Steph Driver told him to “stick to the tennis”

Samuel P J Whitwell, a writer and musician from Leicester, said: “Awful. Barry Davies and David Mercer the only men who can be relied upon to just call the match and not mention looks.”

Castle, a former Grand Slam finalist who has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, initially hit back at his critics, stating on Wednesday: “Brilliant. I knew there would be someone who would comment. Earnest, humourless and probably no fun at all.”

But by Thursday morning he appeared to be in a more conciliatory mood, posting a Tweet in which he apologised, saying: “Obviously never mean to upset anyone. If I did then I apologise.”

The BBC said it had received a number of complaints from viewers about Castle’s comments but would not comment on whether it had instructed him to apologise.

Ms Bate, a former Miss England contestant with two young children, has bridled at suggestions that she is simply the latest in a long line of glamorous WAGs photographed to be on her boyfriend’s arm.

She emphasised that she has a career in her own right, pointing out on Twitter that she is a qualified dental surgeon who studied at King’s College London’s GKT School of Medical Education.

“I'm Dr Jennifer Bate, who spent 5 years at GKT London, after 10 A* GCSE's & 5 A-levels,” she said.

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