Gilles Simon took on a well-worn theme at Wimbledon, the delightful Frenchman confessing not to understand why the women were paid as much as the men. The same old song since time immemorial…
1: "Women's tennis is two sets of rubbish that lasts only half an hour"
Subject, verb, object. No need for a metaphor with him. Pat Cash, the man who once told the journalists "I’m having my period" to explain a heavy defeat against Edberg in Australia, has always been direct, especially when it comes to women's tennis.
2: "80 of the 100 best players in the world are fat, lazy pigs. They should not have access to Centre Court"
This suicide attack by Richard Krajicek at Wimbledon in 1992 was really classy. The baby-faced Dutchman with the spiky hair was perfect son-in-law material… until he blew it all up on a whim in a press conference. Obviously, Navratilova, "head" of the women’s tour, immediately reacted. But he didn't surrender: "I may have exaggerated a bit when I said that 80 per cent of the top 100 women are fat pigs. What I meant to say was 75 per cent of the top 100 women are fat pigs”
3: "It's the nervousness of women that makes the mixed game so volatile"
Neither irony nor provocation in this statement, made by Henri Cochet following a mixed doubles loss at Roland Garros in 1933. But at the time it was OK, even though the famous musketeer had just said that one couldn't count on a woman when she had a racket in hand...
4: "Today I played so badly that I wouldn’t even have won the women's singles!"
John McEnroe on his favourite playground: the difference in performance level between men and women. We could write a whole book from just the press conferences of the American alone. Here, his defeat against Wally Masur in the second round at Wimbledon in 1988 had apparently inspired him even more than usual. A simple joke? In the style, yes, but not in the substance. In the early 2000’s, at 40 years old, McEnroe challenged the Williams sisters. Confident, he wanted to show the world the absolute superiority of the men on a tennis court. But the meeting never happened. Who chickened out first? We never knew...
5: "I could beat the best female players"
At first, it was nothing too serious. Except that Bobby Riggs was 55 years old when he trumpeted this new provocation and it was the early 70s and feminism was on the rise... Unlike McEnroe, his joke ended with a racket in hand in 1973. He started by crushing Margaret Court, the world's best player at the time. Then the activist Billie-Jean King got involved. The latter avenged her gender by beating Riggs in Houston in front of a crowd of 30,000 - a record - and 50 million TV viewers. Despite the tremendous bad taste of the spectacle (King arrived on a throne, Editor's note), the buzz was tremendous. Some even say that this mixed singles match set women's tennis on track: It was the year the women's tour was created, the WTA.
6: "If I had to choose on television between an old movie and a women's tennis match, it would have to be a really bad movie for me to choose the tennis"
Brian Gottfried must surely be subscribed to the best movie channels, because after this little joke in 1978, no one ever heard him talking about women's tennis ever again...
7: "Sometimes I’ll watch a women's match, but only if I don't have anything else to do"
It sounds like dialogue straight out of a B-movie. Yet, Eddie Dibbs, right-handed American, chose tennis instead of taking a career as a screenwriter. Like most of the other pearls in this top 10, it was said at Wimbledon, the tennis temple where any deviation is even more "shocking" than anywhere else.
8: "I don't know any woman who understands the men's game… but men's matches should be done by someone who really knows men's tennis... maybe they want ratings. Maybe they want to sell the most Perrier."
This pure wickedness from John McEnroe was indirectly aimed at former player Mary Carillo, a rival commentator on American television, and the woman with whom McEnroe won the mixed doubles title at Roland Garros in 1977 during his first trip to Europe. Her response? "I grew up with John," she said, "and his views of women and their role in society are a real hootenanny. This is not news to me. When John interviewed for a CBS job a couple of years ago, he said all the same stuff. I guess I'm lucky not a lot of people agreed with him, or I'd be out of a lot of work." However, Big Mac was just being true to his creed, which once found him saying: "There is women's tennis and men's tennis. They are two different sports. "
9: "It happened to me to doze off during a women's match. Women tennis is freaky, it's slow, it's long, it's haunting"
A random spectator can say that if it amuses him. A referee? Less so. Here, it’s the legendary Roland Garros' umpire, Eugene de Kermadec, speaking. Appreciated by all, a painter in his spare time, an untouchable... What a slap! "A referee should be able to be passionate about the game he’s officiating. With women, it's rarely the case. However, they are easier to deal with, they are more friendly" So misogynist, and macho.
10: "There is no reason for them to be paid as much as us as it is us who make the show"
Gilles Simon didn’t invent anything. He just repeated the words of John Newcombe 40 years earlier. At the time, no controversy. Was it OK to go further in the 70’s? It must be said that, unlike Simon, John Newcombe was winning Grand Slam tournaments on a regular basis...
By Julien Pichené