Michael Stich claims Wimbledon ladies are 'just there to sell sex'
As a former Wimbledon champion, Michael Stich might be expected to have an expert appreciation for the skill and dedication required to play tennis at its highest level.
But on the eve of this year’s tournament, the BBC Radio 5 Live commentator has caused outrage among the sport’s female stars by claiming their role is as much about ‘selling sex’ on court as it is about their sporting prowess.
Stich, the 1991 men’s singles champion, made his politically incorrect comments last night as he waded into the argument over the loud grunting of many of the game’s top women.
The 40-year-old German said the noise detracted from the players’ ‘sex appeal’. He said:‘Just play it back to the women. It sounds disgusting, ugly, unsexy!’
When challenged that it was the women’s role to play the best tennis they could, rather than look sexy, Stich stuck to his guns. ‘That’s what they sell,’ he told The Mail on Sunday.
‘They want to look good, they pay attention to their looks and everything.’
Last night Harriet Foxwell, of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, blasted Stich’s remarks. ‘Unfortunately, commentary about female tennis players isn’t always about their skill on court,’ she said.
‘Our wish is that rather than talking about what they are wearing or the noises they make, they are judged on their professional performance.’
However, not everyone took offence. Two-time Wimbledon singles winner Serena Williams admitted: ‘Sex sells! It’s great for Angelina Jolie and it’s true across the board.’
Russian tennis star and swimwear model Maria Kirilenko takes part in her sixth Wimbledon this week
She added: ‘I’ve never been one of the loudest grunters. I just play my game and sometimes I grunt and sometimes I don’t. I’m not conscious when I’m doing it. I’m just zoned out. It doesn’t really affect me if my opponent is [grunting].’
Stich, who beat Boris Becker to the 1991 title, also joked that the only way of stopping the grunting from women players such as Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher De Brito was to ‘shoot them’.
He added: ‘How are you going to prevent it? How are you going to measure it?’
Former Wimbledon referee Alan Mills added that there was ‘nothing in the rules’ to stop players grunting.
Urgh! This guy needs fired from BBC for this!