Paul Newman: John Inverdale lucky to stay on air after foot-in-mouth outbreak over new partner Marion Bartoli

He did not do himself any favours with an interview this week

tennis correspondent

If you were among those who welcomed the news that the BBC had sacked John Inverdale from Radio 5 Live's Wimbledon coverage for his sexist comments last year about Marion Bartoli, then ponder this.

Not only will Inverdale still be working for the Beeb at the All England Club this summer – he will front BBC 2's nightly Today at Wimbledon highlights programme – but he will also be back on television screens from this Sunday presenting coverage of the French Open. One of his co-broadcasters, moreover, will be Bartoli herself.

Inverdale, who has worked for the BBC since the 1980s, and Bartoli, who retired within two months of winning Wimbledon last summer, are members of the ITV commentary team who will be working at Roland Garros over the next fortnight.

In commenting on Inverdale's replacement by Clare Balding as presenter of its Radio 5 Live coverage at Wimbledon, the BBC clearly had no intention of putting a knife in his back. "John is very much a part of [our team] again this year," a spokesman insisted.

Nevertheless the continuing involvement of Inverdale in the BBC's tennis coverage – and perhaps even ITV's – will come as a surprise to many, given his comments about Bartoli, which he made shortly before the Frenchwoman went on court to face Sabine Lisicki in the final.

Inverdale said: "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. You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it.' And she kind of is."

After more than 700 listeners complained, Inverdale said on air the following day that he was sorry "if any offence was caused" by what he described as his "ham-fisted comments". He also wrote a personal apology to Bartoli, who brushed aside the furore. "It doesn't matter, honestly," the Wimbledon champion said.

Inverdale did not do himself many favours with a joint interview he gave with Bartoli to this week's Radio Times. Although he insisted that he was not making excuses, he suggested that his mind had not been wholly on his job.

"I was feeling so ill that day," he said. "I had terrible hay fever and all I could think of was that I wanted to go home to bed. I had Andy Murray in the final the next day. I knew I had to be on form. Your mind is going all over the place. We're on air from 12 noon till 7pm with not a single word written and you've got to fill the time."

The one person who emerges with plenty of credit is Bartoli, who said she had not been upset by the comments, although she had been surprised by them. "I'd known John a long time and I knew what he was trying to say," she told Radio Times. "At the end of the day I am a tennis player. I know I'm not 6ft tall, I'm not the same long, lean shape as Maria Sharapova, but the beauty of tennis is that anyone can win, tall or short. Something the press took to be negative to me was a positive."

Brits aim for main draw: Ward and Konta win

Four Britons can still qualify for the main draw of the French Open, which begins on Sunday. James Ward beat Ryan Harrison of the US 7-6, 7-6 and will contest the final round along with Johanna Konta, who defeated Poland's Paula Kania 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Dan Cox and Heather Watson have two more matches to play before reaching the main draw.

Paul Newman

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy