Serena slams Russian chief's 'sexist' and 'racist' remarks
WORLD No. 1 Serena Williams yesterday lashed out at "sexist" and "racist" comments from the head of Russian tennis after he jokingly called her and her sister Venus the "Williams brothers".
The American applauded swift action from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), which fined Russian federation chief Shamil Tarpischev US$25,000 (S$32,000) and banned him from the sport for a year.
"The WTA did a really great job in taking initiative and immediately taking action," Williams told reporters ahead of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global, which start in Singapore today.
"His comments, I thought, were very insensitive. I thought they were extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time, and they were, in a way, bullying.
"I just wasn't very happy with his comments and I think a lot of people are unhappy as well."
Tarpischev, a member of the International Olympic Committee, has apologised for the comment which he made on a Russian chat show, and drew a furious reaction when translated into English.
WTA chief Stacey Allaster said his words were "insulting, demeaning and have absolutely no place in our sport".
Russia's Maria Sharapova, the world No. 2 who is also in Singapore for this week's season finale, also criticised her countryman for his "very inappropriate" comments.
"They were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I'm glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA," Sharapova told reporters.
"It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has, not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side."
In his apology, Tarpischev called the Williams sisters, who have 25 Grand Slam titles between them, "outstanding athletes" but played down the significance of his off-the-cuff remark.
"I'm sorry that the joke was taken out of context and attracted so much attention," he said. "I think this story does not deserve the attention it is receiving. Everything that I said on TV was said without malicious intent."
Serena is headlining this week's WTA Finals at the Singapore Sports Hub, where she is hoping to become the first woman to win the year-end trophy three years in a row.
The winner of 18 singles Grand Slam titles said she is now back hitting balls in practice and hopes to be injury-free, after withdrawing from this month's China Open with a knee problem.
"I feel okay. I wasn't sure that I would make it to this tournament, but I am here and I feel better than I was in China," said Williams, who opens her Finals title defence against Ana Ivanovic today. "I am just getting better every day."
The Finals feature the season's top eight players and end on Sunday. The players are in two groups - Red group: Williams, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, Ivanovic. White group: Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki.
More details at www.wtafinals.com