The BBC has apologised after one of its presenters described Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli as “not a looker”.
One of the corporation’s highest-profile anchors, John Inverdale, shocked listeners on BBC Radio Five Live as he came out with the derogatory remarks after Bartoli clinched her maiden Grand Slam title with a straight-sets win over Sabine Lisicki.
“Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little 'You’re never going to be a looker’?” Inverdale said.
“’You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight,’” he added.
Bartoli, who beat her German opponent 6-1 6-4 in superb fashion on Centre Court on Saturday, reduced Lisicki to tears with her powerful, relentless hitting, but Inverdale appeared not to join in the admiration for the new champion.
The presenter attempted to make amends for his comments after Bartoli’s victory by saying: “We poked fun, in a nice way, about how she looks ... but Marion Bartoli is an incredible role model.”
But that was not enough to prevent the BBC having to make a grovelling apology on Inverdale’s behalf.
A BBC spokesman said: “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise.”
Inverdale’s words prompted an outpouring of criticism of social networking sites, with many registering their disgust with links to the BBC website’s complaints page.
Many of the Tweets included the hashtag Everyday Sexism, and Bartoli’s father, Walter, was even asked about the BBC presenter’s comments.
“I am not angry. She is my beautiful daughter,” he said.
“The relationship between Marion and me has always been unbelievable so I don’t know what this reporter is talking about.
“When she was five years old she was playing like every kid and having fun on the tennis court.”
He said he would be celebrating with champagne last night with the French tennis ace along with members of her support team to mark a “wonderful event”.
When Bartoli herself was finally asked about the comments she said: "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."
Inverdale revealed on Radio Five Live a day later that he had written to Bartoli to apologise for his "clumsy" and "hamfisted" comments.