BBC's Inverdale apologises for his 'ham-fisted' slur on Bartoli
Tennis presenter John Inverdale has sent women's Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli a letter of apology after making a disparaging remark about her looks.
The French tennis player had just achieved her dream of winning the title when Inverdale claimed she was "never going to be a looker".
As Ms Bartoli (28) sank to her knees in joy and embraced her father in the player's box, Inverdale told Radio 5 Live listeners: "I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, 'Listen, you are never going to be a looker.
"'You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be five-foot-11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate'."
Ms Bartoli suggested yesterday that Mr Inverdale should come and see her dressed up for the Wimbledon ball.
"I invite this journalist to come and see me this evening in a ballgown and heels and, in my opinion, I think he may change his mind," she told the French publication 'Le Parisien'.
The controversy broke on the same day that Andy Murray finally overcame his personal doubts to lift the men's singles title.
As the BBC opened its coverage yesterday, Inverdale addressed his ill-judged remarks.
"Before we start, I'd like to return to yesterday and a clumsy phrase that I used about Marion Bartoli which has understandably caused something of a furore," he said.
"The point I was trying to make in a ham-fisted way is that the public perception of tennis players is that they're all six-foot Amazonian athletes.
"Marion, who is the Wimbledon champion, bucks that trend, and she is a fantastic example to all young people. It's attitude and will and determination together obviously with talent that in the end gets you to the top."
A BBC spokesman said: "We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise."Bartoli did not let the comments dampen her spirits following a one-sided match with Germany's Sabine Lisicki."I am not blonde. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No," she said.
"But have I dreamt about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely. Yes. "And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing and I am so proud. I will be able to watch the DVD of the match again and look at the picture of me when I am holding the trophy." (© Independent News Service) LIAM O'BRIEN