Serena, Djokovic differ on issue of equal pay in tennis

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Some of the top players in tennis expressed disgust Tuesday with the comments made by the now-former director of the BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells, with Serena Williams also disagreeing with fellow No. 1 Novak Djokovic on the issue of equal pay.

Raymond Moore, the former chief operating officer and tournament director, resigned late Monday, a day after telling reporters that female players should be thankful to their male counterparts “because they ride on the coattails of the men.”

“If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport,” he added. Moore later apologized, but stepped down 24 hours later.

Players, both men and women, quickly denounced the comments and that continued Tuesday at the Miami Open. But there was also concern raised about comments Djokovic made suggesting the men should seek more money because their matches tend to attract more spectators.

“I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more, because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches,” Djokovic said earlier this week. “I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.”

Williams disagreed when asked about the comments.

“If I have a daughter and she plays tennis, and I have a son who plays tennis, I wouldn’t say that my son deserves more money because he’s a man,” she said. “I would say they deserve the same amount of money.

“I think (Djokovic) is entitled to his opinion,” she added. “But if he has a daughter – I think he has a son right now – I think he should talk to his daughter and tell her his son deserves more money than you because he’s a boy.”

Andy Murray, ranked No. 2 in the world, believes in equal pay.

“I think there should be equal pay, 100 percent, especially at all combined events,” Murray said. “The timing of it was just so strange. It was right before you had a great women’s final with like 16,000 people sitting in the stadium.

He also noted that interest and attendance differs depending on the matches, saying a Williams match in Miami will pack a stadium more than many men’s matches.

“Men’s tennis has been lucky over the last 10 years because of the quality of players,” he said. “But the whole of tennis should capitalize on that and not just the men’s game, in my opinion.”

WTA chief executive officer Steve Simon, who came to the WTA last fall after being the tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, released a statement related to Moore’s departure on Tuesday.

“Raymond Moore has taken full responsibility for the unacceptable comments he has made,” Simon said. “It is the right decision for him to step down. The BNP Paribas Open has supported the payment of equal prize money to all players since 2009. The WTA looks forward to working with Mr. (Larry) Ellison and the Indian Wells team on continued efforts in making the sport better and equal for all players.”

American John Isner also expressed his disappointment over the Moore incident.

“I think those comments were in a bit of poor taste,” Isner said. “It has caused somewhat of a controversy now. As far as our tour is concerned, the ATP is fighting for what we think we’re worth and the WTA is doing that as well.”