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TV & Radio

John Inverdale sends personal apology to Marion Bartoli over 'never going to be a looker' remark

BBC says sorry for 'insensitive' remark as Wimbledon winner says: 'Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No'

Tennis presenter John Inverdale has sent Marion Bartoli a personal letter of apology after making a disparaging remark about the Wimbledon champion's looks.

The French tennis player had just achieved her dream of winning the grass-court title, but she was brought swiftly back down to earth when Inverdale claimed she was "never going to be a looker".

As Bartoli, 28, sank to her knees in joy and embraced her father in the player's box, Inverdale told Radio 5 Live listeners: "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."

Twitter users reacted with fury. Tom Jamieson said: "John Inverdale's made me realise as a dad I need to work much harder to enrich my two daughters' lives by telling them how ugly they are."

Richard Kent said: "John Inverdale needs to go. @bbc5live Are you going to allow him to carry on? Comments re Bartoli are appalling."

Another Twitter user suggested Inverdale was "falling on his sword" and labelled him a "sexist dinosaur".

Today, as the BBC opened its coverage of the men's singles final, Inverdale addressed his ill-judged remarks.

"Before we start, I'd like to return to yesterday and a clumsy phrase that I used about Marion Bartoli which has understandably caused something of a furore," he said.

"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 6 feet-tall Amazonian athletes.

"Marion, who is the Wimbledon champion, 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 in the end 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."

A BBC spokesman said: "We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise."

Luckily, Bartoli didn't let the comments dampen her spirits following a one-sided match with Germany's Sabine Lisicki.

"It doesn't matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry," she said.

"But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.

"And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing and I am so proud of it. 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."