BBC presenter John Inverdale yesterday said he has apologised to Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli for the “clumsy” comments he made about her appearance while on air.
On Saturday, Inverdale suggested the French player was “never going to be a looker” while discussing the qualities in her game on BBC Radio 5 Live, shortly after Bartoli defeated Germany’s Sabine Lisicki on Centre Court to take the title.
The BBC later said sorry for the comments, with a spokesman saying: “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise.”
Inverdale told listeners on Saturday: “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.”
Yesterday, at the beginning of the station’s coverage of the men’s final, the broadcaster addressed the criticism that those comments sparked.
Inverdale said: “Before we start, I’d like to return to yesterday and a clumsy phrase that I used about Marion Bartoli. The point I was trying to make, in a rather ham-fisted kind of way, is that the public perception of tennis players is that they’re all six-feet-tall Amazonian athletes.
“Marion bucks that trend and she is a fantastic example to all young people that it’s attitude, and will and determination together, obviously, with talent that gets you to the top. I’ve apologised to Marion by letter if any offence was caused and I do hope that we can leave the matter there.”
Bartoli, 28, said on Saturday night that she would not let the comments affect the greatest day of her life.
She said: “It doesn’t matter. 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.
“I am sure I will be able to watch the DVD of the match over and over again and look at the picture of me when I am holding it [the trophy] in my arms. That is the most important thing to me and not what I can do outside of the court.”