Tennis pay row: Novak Djokovic says comments were taken wrong way

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport in Miami
Djokovic has six Australian Open titles but has yet to win the French Open
Djokovic has six Australian Open titles but has yet to win the French Open

World number one Novak Djokovic said he did not mean to cause controversy by saying male players deserve more prize money than women.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion said he spoke out because the sport needed a "fairer and better distribution of funds across the board".

He added he cares "deeply" about tennis and that his remarks were "not the best articulation of my view".

He apologised to anyone who had taken his comments "the wrong way".

Djokovic's remarks were criticised by high-profile players Serena Williams and Andy Murray.

Williams, the women's number one, said the Serb was "entitled to his opinion" but wondered what he would say to his daughter if he had one.

"If I had two kids, I would never tell my son or my daughter that one deserves more because of their sex," the American said.

Murray reiterated his long-held view there should be equal prize money in tennis and gave short shrift to Djokovic's notion that men's tennis is a bigger draw than the women's game.

"At the US Open last year, the tickets for Serena's matches were selling out much quicker than the men's matches," the world number two said.

The 28-year-old Briton added there would be women's matches at the Miami Open that would hold more appeal than some of the men's, so it made "more sense" to make prize money equal.

Djokovic caused a stir when he was asked to react to comments by Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore, who said the women's game "rides on the coat-tails" of the men.

Moore (far right) applauds Williams after her win at Indian Wells at the weekend
Moore (far right) applauds Williams after her win at Indian Wells at the weekend

The South African subsequently apologised before resigning on Monday.

In a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Djokovic sought to "clarify" what he had meant to say.

"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," he wrote. "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 apologise to anyone who has taken this the wrong way."

Murray, meanwhile, said he did not "really understand" what Moore "was getting at".

But the Scot said he was "out of order" for suggesting female players should "get down on their knees" to thank the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for boosting the sport's appeal.

Murray talks to the media in Miami
Murray talks to the media in Miami

Federer and Nadal have won 31 Grand Slam singles titles between them, dominating the men's game for several years before Djokovic took over.

"Roger and Rafa have been unbelievable for tennis but so has Serena Williams," Murray told BBC Sport. "We should all be thankful for those guys and what they've done for the sport."

He also said men's tennis had a lot to thank Williams for.

"When Serena Williams does great, we also capitalise on that," he said. "Someone who's 70 in the world on the men's tour also capitalises on that."

Murray, who is in Miami with wife Kim and new daughter Sophia, said the issue of equal pay was a topic of discussion in the locker room.

"I think the amount players speak about it, it's obviously something they can get frustrated about," he said.

He pointed out that lower-ranked male players also benefit from the success of Federer and Nadal, not just women.

"Why does someone ranked 70 in the world deserve to capitalise on what they're doing just because they're a man?" Murray asked.

"When tennis does well, everyone should thrive on that success."

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