Lifestyle & Belief

Serena Williams backs Maria Sharapova over Gilles Simon in prize money dispute


The shadow of Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova falls on a grass court at Wimbledon, in south London, 23 June 2006.


Carl de Souza

It's a case of "she's hot, you're not" in the men's vs women's tennis grand slam prize money slap down between Gilles Simon and Maria Sharapova.

Serena Williams, the former world no. 1 has now weighed into a public slanging match between the Frenchman and the Wimbledon golden girl, saying of Sharapova: "She's way hotter than he is, so more people will watch Maria."

Simon — who lost to Xavier Malisse in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday — initially provoked Sharapova's ire by calling for an end to equal prize money at grand slams, ESPN reported.

Gilles, a new member of the Association of Tennis Professionals Player Council, claims all 128 players in the Wimbledon men's draw back him but are too afraid to voice their views.

"The 128 players [in the men's singles draw at Wimbledon] think just like me, that's for sure. Just ask them," he reportedly said.

"Maybe they can't say it. ... Maybe they will lose, I don't know, $2 million on the contracts if they say that.

"My point of view was just about the entertainment. If you just watch how it is working in every other sport, even for the singers, you're just paid by the public directly. My point was that I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis. As in any business or anything, you just have to be paid just about that. It's not because we play five sets and they are playing three."

Sharapova — who holds the no. 1 ranking for women in the tournament — responded by pointing out that she is one of the world's best-known athletes while he is not, according to Australia's Fairfax media.

"No matter what anyone says, or the criticisms that we get, despite everything else, I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his, so . . ." Sharapova reportedly said.

"We women have fought so long to get equal prize money ... We're all really proud of it, and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger."

After Sharapova's comments were relayed to her, Williams reportedly laughed and said: "You know, I can't bite my tongue. Definitely a lot more people are watching Maria than Simon. She's way hotter than he is. Women's tennis, I think, is really awesome.

"It's a great fight. We fought for years with Billie Jean King, and Venus [Williams] as well, really set the pattern on what we should do."

While the US Open and Australian Open have had equal prize money for the men's and women's singles titles for years, Wimbledon only did so in 2007, a year after the French Open. 

When asked if he had personally delivered entertainment against Malisse in a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 defeat — for which he walked away with 23,125 pounds (about $35,800), according to the London Telegraph, Simon said: “I don’t care, it’s a general thing."

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