Serena, BJK respond to Moore's comments; tournament director apologizes
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka supplied tennis fans with a thoroughly entertaining 6-4, 6-4 final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Sunday. Vika ultimately snatched her fourth career championship-round victory over Serena, the most of any WTA tour player. She also improved her fairly dismal mark against the tour's No. 1 star to 4-17.
This morning in the SoCal desert, though, tournament CEO Raymond Moore made some fairly disparaging statements about the WTA.
"You know, in my next life when I come back, I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coattails of the men,” he said. “They don't make any decisions and they are lucky ... If I was a lady player, I'd go down on my knees every night and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have."
It only got more problematic from there, with Moore extrapolating that the WTA has a number of "attractive" players making moves to the top, including Garbine Muguruza and Eugenie Bouchard. Asked whether he meant that they are attractive physically or as competitors, he clarified: both.
More from Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore this morning, further down his remarks: pic.twitter.com/nXNATitvrR— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 20, 2016
Serena, either apprised of Moore's comments before her post-final press conference or having discovered them herself via social media, took a grand opportunity once again to assert herself as the WTA's best spokesperson. Terming Moore's remarks "very, very, very inaccurate," Serena truly put him in his place over the ill-advised statements.
"Obviously, I don't think that any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that,” she said.
Serena Williams puts Indian Wells CEO and tournament director Raymond Moore on BLAST. pic.twitter.com/YYEogSiPoO— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 20, 2016
Asked if she's surprised that, in 2016, women—and female athletes specifically—receive such criticism, Serena went further.
"Yeah, I'm still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that's done well," she said. "Last year the women's final at the U.S. Open sold out well before the men. I'm sorry, did Roger play in that final, or Rafa? Or [did] any man play in that final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not."
Not sure how this excuses suggesting that women get on their knees or citing Genie&Mugu as "attractive replacements" https://t.co/PsDI1NWmMd— Nicole Gibbs (@Gibbsyyyy) March 20, 2016
Serena continued: "So I just feel like, in order to make a comment, you have to have history, and you have to have facts, and you have to know things. You have to know everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King, who opened so many doors for not only women's players, but women's athletes in general.
"So I feel like, you know, that is such a disservice to her and every female; not only a female athlete, but every woman on this planet that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in, and just being proud to be a woman."
Disappointed in #RaymondMoore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) March 20, 2016
Soon after the trophy presentation for the women's final in Indian Wells, the BNP Paribas Open released a new statement from Moore. Therein, he apologized for his earlier comments, which surely detracted from Azarenka's achievement, Serena's return to the Indian Wells final for the first time since 2001 and the impending men's final featuring Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic. (That men's match, ironically, was a complete dud, with Djokovic winning, 6-2, 6-0, over an injured foe.)
"At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous," Moore's statement read. "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."
Reactions on social media were swift and merciless among tennis fans, observers and players. Sergiy Stakhovsky—a perennially outspoken ATP tour player—chimed in:
ESPN's Patrick McEnroe had harsh words for Moore and his future status in the sport:
Patrick McEnroe calling for Moore to step down, saying he's "absolutely livid" and BG agreeing wholeheartedly. Whoa.— Victoria Chiesa (@vrcsports) March 20, 2016
Indian Wells celebrates putting racist incident with Serena and Venus behind them by announcing its sexism.— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) March 20, 2016
And leave it to Serena to make a perfect "no shade" comment:
Serena on her loss: "For me it wasn't about winning. It was just about, as Raymond said, coming back out here and doing well. No shade."— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 20, 2016
As the biblical saying goes, the tongue is a rudder, steering the entire ship of a person's character. In that light, Moore's ship certainly sank a few depths on Sunday.
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.