Gilles Simon claims top men back him over equal pay

 

Gilles Simon today refused to back down from his claim that men in
tennis deserve higher prize-money than women and claimed to have
widespread locker-room support.

Simon told a French radio station of his views earlier in the week, with the 27-year-old's remarks provoking a furious backlash among women players, and from the Women's Tennis Association.

But he stood by his comments today and said, after his straight sets defeat to Xavier Malisse at Wimbledon: "My point was that I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis.

"It is just my point of view. I have no problem about it."

He added: "The 128 players (at Wimbledon) think like me, that's for sure. Just ask them."

Several players, the most notable being world number one Maria Sharapova, have derided the Frenchman's claim, and Simon has received little public support for his stance from the male players at SW19 in the last 24 hours.

But Simon, who has been a professional for 10 years, claimed today that he is far from the only person in the locker room to have this point of view.

He added: "It's not only my point of view, it's the point of view of everybody in the locker room.

"I'm pretty sure they're thinking the same way as me. Maybe they can't say it; maybe they won't; maybe they will lose, I don't know, two million on the contracts if they say that. I don't know everything.

"I'm sure they agree with me. Trust me."

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.

Simon denied that was the reason he is in favour of men earning more money.

By his reckoning, the men should earn more because they provide better quality entertainment than the current women on tour.

"I am well aware of the struggle (for equal pay)," Simon said.

"But it just doesn't work in the entertainment (business), because entertainment is not about being a man or woman.

"It's just about the public coming to watch you or not.

"It has nothing to do with men and women.

"If women's tennis is more interesting than men's tennis, if the price of the women's final is higher than the price of the men's final, they will deserve to win more money than us."

Today Sharapova and Serena Williams joined other women in condemning Simon's views today.

Sharapova, who beat Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets to reach the third round, shot down Simon with a cold rebuttal, saying: "I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his."

The Russian added: "We women have fought so long to get equal prize money. It was a big challenge and nobody really supported us.

"It's been a few years since we've got that. We're all really proud of it, and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger, no matter what anyone says, or the criticisms that we get."

Williams backed her rival's stance. The four-time Wimbledon champion said: "Definitely a lot more people are watching Maria than Simon. She's way hotter than he is...

"Women's tennis is really awesome. It's a great fight. We fought for years with Billie Jean King, and Venus (Williams) as well (to get equal pay) and we really set the pattern on what we should do.

"I started playing tennis at two years old. I'm sure he started when he was two years old, as well. I worked just as hard as he did. I'm sure he continues to work hard as I work hard, as well as everyone that's on a professional level."

PA

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