French pair Gilles Simon and Marion Bartoli in row over equal Wimbledon prize money


France's Gilles Simon today faced criticism from compatriot Marion Bartoli after claiming women tennis players should not be paid as well as the men.

Simon, the 13th seed, is due to face Belgian Xavier Malisse in the second round at Wimbledon today.

He sparked controversy ahead of that match by claiming the current pay equality at grand slam tournaments is unfair.

He told France Info: "The male players spent twice as long on court at Roland Garros (during the recent French Open) as the women.

"The equality in salaries isn't something that works in sport.

"Men's tennis remains more attractive than women's tennis at the moment."

Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, frowned on those remarks and insisted the women were still poor relations to the men when it comes to overall pay.

Reacting to Simon's claims, she said in L'Equipe: "Over the year, we are a long way from earning as much as the men.

"It (pay equality) is unique to the grand slams and certain tournaments.

"We put in as much as they do.

"The physical demands, the training and the investment in ourselves are the same as theirs."

And Bartoli, who like Simon is 27 years old, suggested there are few players in the men's game who draw in the crowds.

She said: "There are only five or six."

Wimbledon began offering equal prize-money in 2007 after a unanimous vote in favour of the proposal by the championship committee.

The defence often used previously to justify the disparity was that whereas men play best-of-five-set matches in grand slams, women play just best-of-three.

Wimbledon greats including Billie Jean King and John McEnroe endorsed the decision to offer equal prize-money, which was also praised by the likes of Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams.

However German player Tommy Haas criticised the step.

Simon has been newly elected to the players' council of the ATP, the body that runs the men's tour.

He was handed his new role on Saturday, joining three other top-50 players - Roger Federer, Jarkko Nieminen and Kevin Anderson - on the 12-man council.

Their purpose is to represent all tour players, much like a union, in discussions on all issues with tennis' ruling and operational bodies.