Djokovic contacts Willams, Murray in bid to mend rift on gender pay

From left: Tennis players Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Andy Murray.
From left: Tennis players Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Andy Murray. PHOTOS: AFP

MIAMI • Novak Djokovic has moved to heal potential rifts with Andy Murray and Serena Williams by contacting both players to clear the air following the sexist comments which have angered the tennis world.

In anticipation of being interrogated before his first game at the Miami Open against Britain's Kyle Edmund today, the Serb released an open letter on Facebook on Tuesday. It was a muddled attempt to claw himself out of the hole he created for himself by suggesting in Indian Wells last week that male players deserve more money than their female counterparts because of superior ticket sales and viewing figures.

His original comments drew considerable ire from around the tennis world, with Williams and Murray both voicing their discontent while the British No. 1 continued to fight for equality by engaging in a lengthy Twitter spat with the Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, a strong opponent of equal pay.

When Djokovic faced the press in Miami, there was a stronger sense of clarity from the world No. 1, who said he had spoken with Billie Jean King, the original proponent of equal pay, before talking to the world's press.

"I feel I can make myself available to younger players but felt, because tennis helped me so much, it was my duty to give my opinion on the distribution of wealth in sport," he said. "I make no difference in terms of gender. I believe in equal opportunities and we all contribute in our own ways.

"I have said everything I need to say. I have just been speaking with Billie Jean King about opportunities tennis players have and the influences we can have in different fields of life. Andy (Murray) sent me a message, we spoke very openly and frankly, I sent a message to Serena, Caroline Wozniacki and others, I just wanted them to understand and I never had any intention to offend or have a negative connotation of my statements."

Djokovic's comments at Indian Wells on equal pay came after the tournament organiser Raymond Moore had suggested women "should get on their knees and be thankful" to the stars of the men's game for boosting their profiles.

"I was shocked at the effect this story had in the media," the Serb said. "There is a lot of attention on what I say and I want to repeat there were no bad intentions. What Raymond Moore said was very inappropriate and people thought I was speaking in line with him.

"I never had a problem with equality. I was referring to the tournaments and how the wealth is distributed to all players: high ranked, low ranked, female, male, young and old. We deserve more of the wealth distribution, for all genders."

In the wake of the scandal, King and fellow American Chris Evert also voiced their concerns on a highly unsatisfactory few days for world tennis.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ATP MIAMI OPEN
Day 3: StarHub Ch201, 11pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Djokovic contacts Serena, Murray in bid to mend rift'. Print Edition | Subscribe