Sharapova gets in dig at Simon over prize money

Updated: 2012-06-29 11:27


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LONDON - Maria Sharapova mocked Frenchman Gilles Simon on Thursday for saying women do not deserve the same prize money as men, pointing out dryly that "there are a few more people that watch my matches than his".

Sharapova, the top seed at Wimbledon, said after reaching the third round by beating Tsvetana Pironkova that women had fought long and hard to win equal pay in tennis.

"It was a big challenge and nobody supported us," the world number one said. "It's been a few years since we have gotten that. We're all really proud of it and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger."

Four-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams also pitched into the row. "She's way hotter than he is," quipped the American in reference to her great Russian rival.

Simon must have wondered what hit him at his post-match news conference after losing in the second round to Belgian Xavier Malisse, in which 15 of the 16 questions thrown at him were about the prize money issue.

He was quick to point out that even spectators have to fork out 15 pounds ($23.26) more for the men's final than the women's showpiece match.

"Just check the price of the ticket from the men's final and the woman's final for example. That's the way it works in life.

"I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis," the 13th seed said, insisting it was all about entertainment and not who played the best of five sets as the men do or three like the women.

"When Shakira is singing, she is earning more money than most of the men because everyone wants to see her," Simon said. "That's it."

Simon said he was pretty sure that most male players felt the same way as he did when he talked to them in the locker room.

"Maybe they can't say it, maybe they won't, maybe they will lose, I don't know, $2 million on the contracts if they say that."

Match fee 

After losing in straight sets to Malisse, one reporter suggested that Simon should forfeit 20 percent of his match fee because he had failed to deliver value for money.

"Maria is more famous than me," Simon said. "I know it. She deserves to win more money than me. That's not the problem."

American Andy Roddick, fresh from a straight-sets win over Germany's Bjorn Phau, kept a strict business perspective on the subject.

"It doesn't matter who has an opinion, because I guarantee you, both sides, men and women, we're going to be extremely biased toward our own product," Roddick said.

"I'm just saying that based on any other business in the world, the more you sell, the more you make," Roddick added.

"Let's not make this a gender issue... I'm sure there's a way to figure out who people are coming to watch. I'm sure there are ample numbers out there to dissect.

"As any business goes, you look at those numbers and then decide where it goes from there."

Williams believes the women's game, frequently criticized in comparison with men's tennis which is enjoying a golden era on the back of the huge rivalries among the three top players, Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, was worth the money.

"Women's tennis is really awesome," Williams said. "It's a great fight. We fought for years with Billie Jean King and Venus (Serena's sister) as well."  

All four Grand Slam tournaments pay the same prize money to men and women, with Wimbledon bringing in equal pay in 2007.

Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, issued a statement in response to the latest row.

"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."