Wimbledon: Sharapova hits out at Simon over gender jibe
Maria Sharapova mocked Frenchman Gilles Simon yesterday for saying women do not deserve the same prize money as men, pointing out dryly that "there are a few more people that watch my matches than his".
Sharapova, the top seed at Wimbledon, said after reaching the third round by beating Tsvetana Pironkova, that women had fought long and hard to win equal pay in tennis.
"It was a big challenge and nobody supported us," the world No 1 said. "It's been a few years since we have gotten that. We're all really proud of it and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger."
Four-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams also pitched into the row.
"She's way hotter than he is," quipped the American in reference to her great Russian rival.
Simon must have wondered what hit him at his post-match news conference after losing in the second round to Belgian Xavier Malisse, in which 15 of the 16 questions thrown at him were about the prize money issue.
He was quick to point out that even spectators have to fork out £15 more for the men's final than the women's showpiece match.
"Just check the price of the ticket from the men's final and the woman's final, for example. That's the way it works in life.
"I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis," the 13th seed said, insisting it was all about entertainment and not who played the best of five sets as the men do or three like the women.
"When Shakira is singing, she is earning more money than most of the men because everyone wants to see her," Simon said. "That's it."
Simon said he was pretty sure that most male players felt the same way as he did when he talked to them in the locker-room.
"Maybe they can't say it, maybe they won't, maybe they will lose, I don't know, $2m on the contracts if they say that."
After losing in straight sets to Malisse, one reporter suggested that Simon should forfeit 20pc of his match fee because he had failed to deliver value for money.
"Maria is more famous than me," Simon said. "I know it. She deserves to win more money than me. That's not the problem."
American Andy Roddick, fresh from a straight-sets win over Germany's Bjorn Phau, kept a strict business perspective on the subject.
"It doesn't matter who has an opinion, because I guarantee you, both sides, men and women, we're going to be extremely biased towards our own product," Roddick said.
"I'm just saying that based on any other business in the world, the more you sell, the more you make. Let's not make this a gender issue... I'm sure there's a way to figure out who people are coming to watch. I'm sure there are ample numbers out there to dissect.
"As any business goes, you look at those numbers and then decide where it goes from there."
On the court, while Sharapova battled an erratic serve, with eight aces and 10 double-faults, four-time champion Williams had no such trouble. She won 27 of 28 points on her first serve, including 10 aces, and never faced a break point.
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