Two of the most beloved tennis players in the world were the target of sexist comments courtesy of Russian tennis chief Shamil Tarpischev after he referred to Venus and Serena Williams as “brothers” and said they were “scary to look at.”
Tarpischev said the comments during an interview on a Russian talk show earlier this month when he was asked about the sisters. Tarpischev was fined $25,000 and banned from the Women’s Tennis Association for a year.
In an interview before the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore on Sunday, Serena called Tarpischev’s comments sexist and racist.
“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments. I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time,” she said.
Williams, who won the U.S. Open title last month, added: “I thought they were in a way bullying but the WTA and the USTA (U.S. Tennis Association) did a wonderful job of making sure that — in this day of age, 2014 for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.”
Tarpischev released a statement after his ban was announced showing remorse, but didn’t see the big deal behind his comments.
Tarpischev, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, said Saturday his comments about the Williams sisters were only meant as jokes.
He told The Associated Press that his comments came as he spoke on “a humorous show.” Tarpischev later denied any “malicious intent” in a statement released by the Russian Tennis Federation.
“I regret that this joke … has garnered so much attention,” Tarpischev, who was the personal tennis coach to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, said in his statement. “I don’t think this incident deserves so much fuss.”
Serena didn’t let the comments affect her game. The tennis player went on to win her opening match on Monday, dominating Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4 in the Red Group. It was her 16th consecutive victory in the tournament.
SOURCE: CNN | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty