ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpischev has been fined $25,000 by the WTA Tour and suspended from tour involvement for a year for questioning Serena and Venus Williams’ gender in comments on Russian television last week.
Tarpischev appeared on the Russian late-night show “Evening Urgant” alongside former WTA player Elena Dementieva last week. When Dementieva was asked what it was like to play against the Williams sisters, Tarpischev jumped in and referred to them as the “Williams brothers,” according to multiple reports.
After a back-and-forth with the show host and Dementieva, who did not laugh at the comment, Tarpischev reportedly continued: “It’s frightening when you look at them. But really you just need to play against the ball.”
The derogatory remarks by the head of the Russian Tennis Federation come out of nowhere and attacks not just two of the sport’s biggest stars, but the very foundation of the women’s game.
The WTA Tour said Friday that the $25,000 fine is the maximum allowed under tour rules and that it is seeking Tarpischev’s removal as chairman of the Kremlin Cup for one year. The tour also said Tarpischev owes the Williams sisters a personal apology.