World number one Novak Djokovic has questioned equal prize money in tennis, suggesting men should get better awards as they have more spectators.
Winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, he defended use of viewing statistics to determine fair distribution of prizes at joint events.
Earlier, Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore said the women’s WTA Tour “ride on the coat-tails of the men”.
Djokovic described the comments as “not politically correct”.
The Serbian player said women “fought for what they deserve and they got it”, but that the men’s ATP tennis world “should fight for more”.
“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.”
Mr Moore caused controversy earlier when he said: “If I was a lady player, I would go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
He later apologised for the remarks.
A debate about the relative strengths of the men’s and women’s game should not be off limits, but the language Ray Moore used was deeply offensive – and it is hard to see how he can command the confidence of the players who will return to Indian Wells next year.
Novak Djokovic’s comments are shared by very many in the men’s game.
He is suggesting that prize money at combined events should be distributed on the basis of ticket sales and TV viewing figures.
That may lead in future to women being paid more, but 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.
World number one Serena Williams said Mr Moore’s statement was “offensive”, calling it “mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate”.
Billie Jean King, who co-founded the WTA Tour and won 12 Grand Slam singles titles,tweeted: “Disappointed in Raymond Moore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success.”