Andy Murray feuds on Twitter in tennis pay dispute

Story highlights

Stakhovsky says for now, men should earn more than women in tennis

But it could be the opposite, he said, in future

Stakhovsky replies after Andy Murray dig

CNN  — 

Sergiy Stakhovsky was the tennis journeyman that Andy Murray suggested would attract a smaller crowd if he was playing at the same time as Serena Williams at a major tournament. Ouch.

Stakhovsky is no stranger to controversy but he didn’t appreciate the barb from the two-time grand slam champion.

“I believe it’s slightly inappropriate but then again I am not going to judge his education with his morality,” Stakhovsky told CNN in a week when tennis’ equal pay debate resurfaced with a bang.

The 30-year-old’s ranking – 115th – belies his penchant for appearing in the headlines. Indeed he wasn’t randomly name-dropped by Murray, who was his opponent in the 2004 U.S. Open junior final.

The Ukrainian faced heavy criticism last year when he was quoted as saying by media in his homeland that “half” of the women who played on the women’s WTA tour were lesbians and because of that, he added, he would never want his now nearly two-year-old daughter to take up the sport.

He claimed those comments were incorrectly interpreted.

Stakhovsky, whose biggest claim to fame on court has been upsetting Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, also speculated that there were no gay players in the top 100 of the ATP Tour, since, as he put it, “you definitely would see something different” in the locker room.

And on equal pay, the subject that has drawn significant attention on the tennis tour lately – with Novak Djokovic admonished for his stance by Murray and Williams, among others – Stakhovsky said in 2012 that the men should earn more, echoing the thoughts of former top-10 pro Gilles Simon.

Stakhovsky had kept relatively quiet on this week’s developments, which began with Raymond Moore’s shocking pronouncements in Indian Wells that ultimately cost the South African his job, until he was thrust into the spotlight by Murray.

Murray on Tuesday backed equal pay at every combined tournament and in the process took a swipe at Stakhovsky.

“If Serena is playing on center court and you have a men’s match with Stakhovsky playing, people are coming to watch Serena,” he told reporters as the tennis circuit continued at the Miami Open, which features both men and women.

Spat on Twitter

That prompted a feud on Twitter between the two players, with Stakhovsky – a member of the ATP’s player council since 2012 – wondering how many people would watch Murray’s fellow Brit, Laura Robson, compete in Kiev.

“It’s very disappointing of Andy to point the finger at me because I spent the last six years doing everything I could with the council to get the players fair compensation,” he told CNN.

While Murray appeared to tweak his views on equal pay this week – he stated three years ago the women should play five sets at majors to receive the same pay at the grand slams – Stakhovsky hasn’t changed his.

“We’re in the business where we are entertainers,” he said. “We are driven by the public. The only thing which is not really working here is that we’re always pushing the men up, or I believe that’s what the council does, trying to get better deals for players in all sorts of establishments, starting with player services and ending with prize money.

“Yet the WTA is always pushing that they want equal prize money. They never requested increased prize money; they always want to have equal prize money.

“They don’t try to drive their product to the best of their knowledge.”

Stakhovsky would have, he said, no complaints about women receiving more than the men if the tennis landscape shifts.

“I disagree that it should be equal (now),” he said. “I believe that maybe in 10 years from now, maybe the women will have 15 superstars which would drive tennis in a completely different way and then they would earn more than the men.

“And if that’s going to be the case, then I believe it would be fair for them to earn more than us.”

More from Djokovic

Djokovic, in the wake of Moore’s words and winning the Indian Wells title on Sunday, felt that men warranted extra cash based on variables such as attendance and “attention.”

With disapproval escalating, the world No. 1 clarified his remarks in a Facebook post Tuesday. He then had a 30-minute chat with WTA founder Billie Jean King and 18-time grand slam winner Chris Evert on Wednesday, the aftermath of which prompted King to call the 11-time major champion a “class act.”

Djokovic said he cleared the air with Murray, Williams and former women’s No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, among others.

“I never had an issue with equality in gender or sport or other areas of life,” Djokovic told reporters in Miami Wednesday. “We all deserve more of the wealth distribution from the tournaments. I feel very sorry if I hurt my female colleague tennis players. I have a huge respect for all of them.”

“I never had any intention to offend them or come up with any negative connotations in my statement. I don’t make any differences between the genders. I am for equality in the sport.

“I was shocked at the effect this story had in the media. What Raymond Moore said was very inappropriate and people thought I was speaking in line with him.”

Was that the end of it? Hardly. Evert drew rebuke on social media when, discussing Djokovic’s original comments Sunday, she called his thoughts a “cultural” thing.

“I think a lot of the comments are cultural, too,” the American told reporters Wednesday. “I doubt you hear that as much from the American men’s tennis players and I’m sort of applauding the Americans for that.

“I think the Europeans later on took a cue from the Americans and I think Americans accepted equality on a lot of different levels earlier than Europe did,” added Evert, perhaps referring to the U.S. Open becoming the first grand slam to offer equal prize money in 1973.

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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates with the trophy after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their Men's Singles Final match on Day Fourteen of the 2015 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the USTA)
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