Serena Williams and Andy Murray back equal pay and wade into Djokovic

Serena Williams

Serena Williams waded into the tennis sexism row on Tuesday and urged Novak Djokovic to explain to children why male players deserved more money than their female counterparts.

On the day the Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore was forced to resign following his remarks at the weekend, when he suggested that women “should get on their knees” and be thankful for the men’s game boosting their own profile, the world No1 Djokovic has now come under severe criticism from two of the biggest names in the game. The Serb believes that men deserve a greater monetary reward because their ticket sales and viewing figures are superior.

That drew a withering response from Williams as well as Djokovic’s long-time rival Andy Murray, both in town for the Miami Open, ,which begins on Thursday, who both questioned the legitimacy of his claims. “It has been disappointing,” Williams, a 21-times grand slam winner, said of the reopening of the equality debate. “If I have a daughter who plays tennis and also have a son that plays tennis, I wouldn’t say that my son deserves more because he is a man. If they both started at three years old I would say they both deserve the same amount of money.

“I have been playing since the age of two and it would be shocking to say my son would deserve more than my daughter. It is irrelevant. Novak is entitled to his opinion but if he has a daughter – I think he has a son right now – he should talk to her and tell her how his son deserves more money because he is a boy.

“It all boils down to that. I would never put a sex against another sex. I think it’s unfair to compare, we have had so many great women champions and players who have brought such great vision to the sport. There have been great men players too, but women’s tennis is the biggest sport for women – period. Men’s tennis is not the biggest sport for them but it’s still huge. You do have soccer, football, basketball. Everyone works really hard. Once again, it all boils down to how you’d explain it to your kids.”

Murray, meanwhile, strongly questioned the validity of Djokovic’s beliefs while aiming a hollow dig at the Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who opposes equal pay. The Scot, who has spoken in the past about the possibility of women playing five sets in grand slams, said: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can have different views.

“One of the things Novak said was that if women are selling more seats and tickets they should make more but at a tournament like this, for example, if Serena is playing on centre court and you have a men’s match with Stakhovsky playing, people are coming to watch Serena. The crowds are coming to watch the women as well. The whole thing just doesn’t stack up – it changes on a day-to‑day basis depending on the matches you get.

“Men’s tennis has been lucky over the last nine or 10 years with the players they’ve had, the rivalries which have come out of that. That’s great but the whole of tennis should capitalise on that – not just the men’s game. I have no idea of the meetings that go on and the discussions which are had. The slams are probably less complicated to figure out.”

Top-ranking Masters tournaments such as Miami and Indian Wells, as well as all four grand slams, have equal pay for both sexes. Murray said: “I think there should be equal pay, 100%, at all combined events. The timing of it [Moore’s remarks] was just so strange, right before a great women’s final, there were 16,000 people in the stadium waiting to see them play.

“The whole thing was very strange and very disappointing. I don’t understand at all where he was coming from with those comments. It made no sense at all.

“I think it will happen one day. Maybe if there is a tournament in Acapulco one week and then another one in China for the women, I don’t know how that would work [for equal prize money] but at the combined events, it will be equal.”

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