UK

John Inverdale 'has written to Marion Bartoli over remark'

Marion Bartoli
Image caption The Wimbledon win was Bartoli's first grand slam trophy

BBC commentator John Inverdale says he has written to Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli to apologise for saying she was "never going to be a looker".

His comments on Radio 5 live as she prepared for Saturday's final provoked anger.

Speaking on air on Sunday, he said he was sorry "if any offence was caused" by his "ham-fisted comments".

A BBC spokesperson said earlier: "We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise."

Asked about Inverdale's comments, Bartoli said: "It doesn't matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry.

"But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes."

Inverdale's comments came about an hour before French player Bartoli's match against Germany's Sabine Lisicki as he chatted on air about Bartoli's technique as a player.

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Media captionListen to an extract of John Inverdale's remarks before the women's singles final

He said: "I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, 'listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker.

"'You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.

"'You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it', and she kind of is."

Speaking at the start of 5 live's coverage of Sunday's men's final between Briton Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, Inverdale told listeners: "Before we start, I probably ought to just briefly return to yesterday and a clumsy phrase that I used about Marion Bartoli which has understandably caused something of a furore.

"The point I was trying to make, in a rather ham-fisted kind of way, was that in a world where the public perception of tennis players is that they're all 6ft tall Amazonian athletes, Marion - who is the Wimbledon champion - bucks that trend."

He said she was "a fantastic example to all young people that it's attitude and will and determination together, obviously, with talent that, in the end, does get you to the top".

"So I have apologised to Marion by letter if any offence was caused and I do hope that we can leave the matter there now," he added.

He had earlier said he had poked fun "in a nice way at how she looks", adding: "She is an incredible role model for people who aren't born with all the attributes of natural athletes".

Inverdale has presented TV and radio sports programmes for the BBC - including Grandstand and sports chat show On Side - since the 1980s.

He was one of the corporation's 2012 Olympics presenters and also presents coverage of sports including rugby union and rowing.

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