Billy Joel didn't start the fire, but Andy Murray sure did on Tuesday.
Noting that his ATP colleague, Sergiy Stakhovsky—a frequent WTA and equal-pay detractor—was up to his usual ways on Twitter, Murray opted not to hold back and went after the instigator. In truth, the conversation was started by another tweeter, Donnie Sackey, whose bio notes that he is an assistant professor of English at Wayne State University. Sackey tweeted the link to an ESPN story in which Murray and Serena Williams were quoted as differing with Novak Djokovic on the subject of equal pay between men's and women's touring pros.
Among Murray's comments: "The crowds are coming to watch the women as well. The whole thing just doesn't stack up—it changes on a day-to-day basis depending on the matches you get."
Therein, Murray rather obviously took a dig at (or "shaded") Stakhovsky in making a point.
"One of the things Novak said was that if women are selling more seats and tickets they should make more," Murray said, "But at a tournament like [the BNP Paribas Open], for example, if Serena is playing on center court, and you have a men's match with Stakhovsky playing, people are coming to watch Serena."
Sackey tagged the Twitter handles of Murray, Williams and Stakhovsky, which certainly alerted all of them of the deluge to come. Cue a rare protracted exchange between players on the medium, let alone one dripping with sarcasm and spite:
@donniejsackey so you agree that a law student coming of Ivy League should earn same as lawyer coming out of any other University ??— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) March 22, 2016
@andy_murray long story.Thanks for mentioning me with tdayneed some attention.. Although ur argument fails the moment we leave UK territory— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) March 23, 2016
@Stako_tennis as soon as we leave uk territory more people are watching you than Laura? Really?— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) March 23, 2016
@andy_murray the venue in Kiev is ready , all you need to do is convince Laura to come .— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) March 23, 2016
@Stako_tennis I played you in a Davis cup match in Ukraine and there must have been a thousand people there max!— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) March 23, 2016
@andy_murray you saw any empty seats??— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) March 23, 2016
@Stako_tennis but seriously explain about the university please.. Didn't quite understand where you were goin with that— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) March 23, 2016
@andy_murray have plenty of time tmrw)— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) March 23, 2016
As seen above, British pro Laura Robson, on the comeback trail from injury, was brought up in the conversation. Murray posited that she would draw more fans to a match than Stakhovsky, which led the conversation deeper into its tangential talk of Ivy League law degrees, Kiev, Davis Cup attendance and more. Other pros took note, including the WTA's Alla Kudryavtseva:
Serbian pro Dusan Lajovic may have recorded the ultimate "burn" on Stakhovsky here.
But it may be that Sackey, the English professor, not only had the final say in the matter, but the best. He certainly delivered the most direct "shade," as it were, at the No. 115th-ranked Stakhovsky.
@Stako_tennis In many ways you're the ultimate welfare queen. You rip on women's tennis, without doing much on your own tour.— Donnie Sackey (@donniejsackey) March 22, 2016
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.