Sports / Tennis

Djokovic makes peace with King and Williams

By Agence France Presse In Miami (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-25 07:57

World No 1 has 'huge respect' for female colleagues

Novak Djokovic made peace with Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Serena Williams and others on Wednesday by expressing his support for equal prize money for men and women tennis players after days of controversy.

After winning the Indian Wells final in Califronia on March 20, the world No 1 from Serbia suggested men attract more spectators and deserved better paydays.

"Stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men's tennis matches. I think that's one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more," said Djokovic, who also noted women "have to go through a lot of different things that we don't have to go through, you know, the hormones and different stuff."

Djokovic issued an apology of sorts on social media on Tuesday but refused to back down from his remarks, leaving that for his media conference at the ATP and WTA Miami Open, where he is the top seed and defending champion.

"I have never had an issue with equality in gender or sport or other areas of life," Djokovic said.

"We all deserve more of the wealth distribution from the tournaments.

"I feel very sorry if I hurt my female colleague tennis players. I have a huge respect for all of them."

The 11-time Grand Slam champion said he sent messages to Andy Murray, Serena Williams and others who had been critical of his remarks.

"I never had any intention to offend them or come up with any negative connotations," Djokovic said. "I don't make any differences between the genders. I am for equality in the sport."

Before addressing the media, Djokovic spent 30 minutes speaking with Billie Jean King and Chris Evert about his comments, saying King was not in a fiery mood after her years fighting for gender equity in prize money.

Friendly chat

"She was in a very good mood with me," said Djokovic.

"We spoke about opportunities that a tennis player has, to use his influence to make a positive difference in the world. We had a nice and friendly chat."

King and Evert spoke to reporters earlier, generally talking beyond tennis issues about gender equity but saving a few choice words for Djokovic.

"I didn't quite understand the hormones thing," Evert said. "You don't talk about women's hormones. Anywhere."

King agreed, adding: "He was talking about our monthly situation. Like it was the Dark Ages."

Evert cited cultural differences between Djokovic growing up in Europe and Americans embracing equality for women as a principle in a different time frame.

"I think a lot of the comments are cultural," Evert said. "I don't hear that too much from the American men's tennis players.

"I just think America was first. The Europeans took the cue from America. Americans respected equality in a lot of life levels earlier than Europe did."

King noted Djokovic has a young son and said fatherhood and culture could play a role in his remarks.

"My prayer is that most of the guys have daughters," King said. "I think it changes them."

Djokovic, who again will try to complete a career grand slam at the French Open, said he was shocked at the magnitude of outrage his comments caused.

"I was a little bit surprised with what kind of proportions and directions this story got," he said.

"There were no bad intentions. People probably understood it the wrong way. The outreach of this story was tremendous."

Djokovic makes peace with King and Williams

(China Daily 03/25/2016 page23)

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