France’s Gilles Simon faced fierce criticism at Wimbledon after he claimed women tennis players should not be paid as much as the men.
Simon, the 13th seed, whose second-round match against Belgian Xavier Malisse was postponed until today due to rain, sparked controversy when he claimed the current pay equality at grand slam tournaments is unfair.
He said: “The male players spent twice as long on court at Roland Garros (during the recent French Open) as the women. The equality in salaries isn’t something that works in sport. Men’s tennis remains more attractive than women’s tennis at the moment.”
Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive of the WTA, which runs the women’s tour, was scathing in her analysis of Simon’s comments.
“Tennis, including the grand slams, is aligned with our modern, progressive society when it comes to the principle of equality,” Allaster said.
“I can’t believe in this day and age that anyone can still think otherwise. This type of thinking is exactly why the WTA was founded and we will always fight for what’s right.”
Several players hit back at the views from Simon, 27, who was elected to the players’ council of the ATP on Saturday, although Britain’s Heather Watson saw some logic to his argument.
Ana Ivanovic, the 14th seed who progressed to the second round with a hard-fought 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, said: “It’s always been talked about, but we are different physiques, as well.
“I think we earn our money, as well. I was two and a half hours out there (yesterday).”
That was more than an hour longer than Roger Federer spent on court beating Fabio Fognini.
Simon’s compatriot Marion Bartoli said women were still poor relations to the men when it comes to overall pay.
Reacting to Simon’s claims, she said: “Over the year, we are a long way from earning as much as the men. It (pay equality) is unique to the grand slams and certain tournaments. We put in as much as they do.
“The physical demands, the training and the investment in ourselves are the same as theirs.”
Fifth seed Sam Stosur, who suffered a surprise loss to Arantxa Rus, also believes pay should be equal in the men’s and women’s games.
But Watson said: “I think it is tough for the guys, especially at Wimbledon because it’s five sets.
“At all the other tournaments it should be the same. We play the same amount of sets and have to work just as hard.”
Wimbledon began offering equal prize-money in 2007.