Women's tennis welcomes Raymond Moore's resignation

The governing body of women's tennis has welcomed the resignation of Raymond Moore as tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Raymond Moore, pictured with Serena Williams, has quit as Indian Wells tournament director. Picture: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Raymond Moore, pictured with Serena Williams, has quit as Indian Wells tournament director. Picture: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Moore sparked outrage with his comments that women’s tennis “rides on the coattails” of the men’s game.

Moore said ahead of Sunday’s women’s final that female players should “go down every night on (their) knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born”.

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WTA chief executive Steve Simon, Moore’s predecessor at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, strongly criticised the comments in the aftermath and said the South African’s decision to step down was the right one.

Simon’s statement read: “Raymond Moore has taken full responsibility for the unacceptable comments he has made. It is the right decision for him to step down.

“The BNP Paribas Open has supported the payment of equal prize money to all players since 2009. The WTA looks forward to working with Mr Ellison and the Indian Wells team on continued efforts in making the sport better and equal for all players.”

Larry Ellison, the owner of one of the biggest tournaments outside the grand slams, announced Moore’s resignation on Tuesday morning.

He said in a statement on the tournament website: “Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore.

“Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and tournament director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision.”

Moore had already apologised publicly for comments that received widespread criticism, including from Indian Wells finalist Serena Williams, who said: “Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that.”

Ellison, in announcing Moore’s departure, took time to praise Williams and Billie Jean King among others for their role in the sport’s progress towards gender equality.

He said: “Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis. What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally.

“Thanks to the leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes, an important measure of success has already been achieved.

“I’m proud to say that it is now a decade-long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men.

“I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis. And I’d like to congratulate them on their success.

“All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody.”

Speaking to journalists on the morning of the final day of the tournament, Moore said: “In my next lifetime when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.

“If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.”

Moore also described players such as Eugenie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza as “physically attractive and competitively attractive”.

He released a statement on Sunday in which he said: “I am truly sorry for those remarks and apologise to all the players and the WTA as a whole.

“We had a women’s final that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria (Azarenka, who beat Williams 6-4 6-4) and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”

That was not enough to appease Williams, though.

“Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men,” she said after her loss to Azarenka.

“I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final, or Rafa, or any man play in a final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.

“There’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not....we, as women, have come a long way.

“We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.”

Novak Djokovic waded into the row following his victory over Milos Raonic in the men’s final by claiming male players should receive more prize money than women, earning criticism from Navratilova among others.