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LONDON — The BBC’s Wimbledon tennis-coverage anchorman John Inverdale has apologized after making remarks about female champion Marion Bartoli.
Inverdale, hosting the BBC’s coverage ahead of the male final on the Sunday, told BBC 5 Live listeners he had written to the player apologizing for “any offense caused” after describing her as “not a looker” before her win in Saturday’s womens’ final.
The BBC had previously apologized on Inverdale’s behalf after the Radio 5 Live radio host said before Bartoli’s match against Sabine Lisicki: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”
The remarks set the Internet alight immediately with Twitter users biting back.
“John Inverdale is never going to be a looker, or a thinker, or as good at anything as Bartoli,” said one social media user.
Inverdale initially tried to take the heat out of his comments on Saturday by saying he had been attempting to “poke fun, in a nice way, about how she looks.”
But a day later, ahead of the men’s final, which saw Andy Murray triumph against Novak Djokavic, Inverdale said: “Before we start, I probably ought to return to yesterday and a clumsy phrase I used.”
He noted he had been trying to make the point “in a ham-fisted way” that “in a world where [players] are all 6 feet tall,” Bartoli’s achievement was particularly impressive. The French player is 5 foot 7 inches.
“I have apologized to Marion by letter if any offense was caused, and I do hope we can leave the matter there.”
Bartoli said after the match: “It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No, I’m sorry.”
“But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing, and I am so proud of it.”
Bartoli, who has a higher IQ than Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, told the French press she would like “the BBC man” to come and see her in her gown and heels at the traditional end-of-Wimbledon ball in the British capital because he’d “change his mind.”
The BBC said: “We accept that this remark was insensitive, and for that we apologize.”
The BBC’s TV coverage of the tournament drew the highest ratings of the year in Britain with its live coverage of Scottish tennis star Murray’s Wimbledon final victory on Sunday.
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