World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has had his say on the debate over equal prize money in tennis after his BNP Paribas Open triumph at Indian Wells, California, on Sunday.
Speaking after controversial comments made by Indian Wells Tennis Garden chief executive officer Raymond Moore, who claimed the women's game "rides on the coat-tails of the men,” the Serb has encouraged the ATP to “fight for more” in respect of the sums paid out at the end of tournaments, per BBC Sport:
Stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men's tennis matches. I think that is one of the... reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.
As long as it is like that and there is data and stats available and information... upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.
Here is a look at the comments made in full by the 11-time Grand Slam champion, per Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times:
Novak Djokovic weighs in on Ray Moore's remarks, equal prize money, and…female hormones? This was…not his best work. pic.twitter.com/dauOSP7iru— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 20, 2016
Additionally, Djokovic said he feels the comments made by Moore were “not politically correct” and has praised the WTA as they “fought for what they deserve and they got it.”
On Tuesday, Djokovic clarified his comments in a Facebook post (h/t ESPN.com):
As you all know, I care deeply about the future of the game and all of the players. Tennis helped me so much in my life and being where I am today, I felt the need to speak about the fairer and better distribution of funds across the board -- this was meant for both men and women. We all have to fight for what we deserve. This was never meant to be made into a fight between genders and differences in pay, but in the way all players are rewarded for their play and effort.
Tennis is a sport that I love and that gave me the opportunity to help others who still have a long way to go to achieve their dreams. This was my view all along and I want to apologize to anyone who has taken this the wrong way.
The Indian Wells CEO apologised for the statements he made, the same source reports.
Billie Jean King, a 12-time Grand Slam champion and co-founder of the WTA, was far from happy with the remarks from Moore:
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
Serena Williams, a 21-time Grand Slam winner and the top-ranked women's player in the world, cast doubt over the statistics suggesting men's tennis is more popular.
“Last year the women's final at the US Open sold out well before the men,” she said after losing in the final of Indian Wells to Victoria Azarenka on Sunday, per the Press Association (h/t the Telegraph). “I'm sorry, did Roger [Federer] play in that final or Rafa [Nadal] or any man play in a final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not."
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller thinks the views of Djokovic are “shared by very many in the men's game.”
"That may lead in future to women being paid more, but it could also fatally undermine the principle that men and women should be treated equally for competing on the same stage—irrespective of the number of sets they are asked to play," he continued.
The Serb enjoyed a brilliant afternoon on court in California on Sunday, as he hammered Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 to win the Indian Wells title for the third time in a row.
As these figures from ESPN Stats & Info show, he’s excelled in these kinds of events for a long time now:
Novak Djokovic wins his 27th Masters 1000 title, tied for the most ever since the series began in 1990. pic.twitter.com/oklqbwDXDe— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2016
The debate is a sensitive one, and as one of the greatest players of all time, the opinions of someone like Djokovic are always going to take on a significant amount of clout. It’s clear the 28-year-old was being careful in the way he answered these questions following the controversy surrounding Moore’s comments.
Having Djokovic and Williams discuss the matter in the public domain is likely to strike up further discussions on the issue. It’s imperative any talking is done in a sensible and respectful way—virtues Moore failed to preserve with his remarks.