The final Sunday of the BNP Paribas Open, one of the biggest joint ATP-WTA events outside the Grand Slam tournaments, is often a showcase for tennis' superstars, with the women's and men's finals played back to back.
A few hours before those matches began, though, the spotlight instead was on Raymond Moore, the tournament director, who told the news media on Sunday morning that female tennis players were "lucky" and owed their status to stars of the men's game.
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"In my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, because they ride on the coat tails of the men," Moore said. "They don't make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have."
Moore also commented that the women's game was poised for success in the future with "very attractive prospects," whom he later clarified were "physically attractive and competitively attractive."
Hours later, Victoria Azarenka defeated Serena Williams, 6-4, 6-4, in the women's final. It was Williams' first appearance in the final of the tournament since 2001, when she was jeered by a caustic crowd throughout the match, causing her not to return to the event until last year. Her sister Venus, who was also booed by the crowd, returned this year.
Moore thanked Williams as he introduced her in the trophy ceremony.
"I would like to take a few seconds of your time to publicly thank Serena, initiating the comeback here at Indian Wells, and putting the bad controversy that we had to bed," he said.
A new controversy, however, was only beginning as Moore's remarks from the morning began to spread. Williams, who had profusely thanked the crowd for its support for her in her comeback, saw Moore's remarks before reaching her post-match news conference and quickly denounced them.
"I don't think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that," she said. "I think Venus, myself, a number of players - if I could tell you every day how many people say they don't watch tennis unless they're watching myself or my sister - I couldn't even bring up that number. So I don't think that is a very accurate statement."
"I think there is a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate."
Williams rejected the notion that Moore's comments could have been misconstrued.
"There's only one way to interpret that," she said. "'Get on your knees,' which is offensive enough, and 'Thank a man'? We, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."
Williams expressed particular shock that Moore would make such comments after last year's US Open, when excitement over her Grand Slam bid caused tickets to the women's final to sell out before the men's final for the first time in tournament history.
"I'm sorry, did Roger play in that final?" Williams asked. "Or Rafa, or any man, play in that final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not."
Williams and Azarenka invoked Billie Jean King, a founder the WTA and a champion of greater prize money for women.
"You look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women's players but women's athletes in general," Williams said. "So, I feel like that is such a disservice to her and every female - not only a female athlete but every woman on this planet - that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in, being proud to be a woman."
King said on Twitter that she was disappointed by Moore's remarks.
"He is wrong on so many levels," King wrote. "Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success."
During ESPN's broadcast of the subsequent men's final, the commentator Patrick McEnroe called on Moore to step down. "That was completely unacceptable, I'm absolutely livid," McEnroe said.
The tournament issued an apology from Moore during the men's final.
"I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous," he said. "I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women's final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA."
Moore, a 69-year-old South African, is a former player and helped build the Indian Wells facility and tournament. He took over as tournament director this year when Steve Simon stepped down to become chief executive of the WTA.