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Posted at 03:01 PM ET, 06/28/2012

Wimbledon 2012; Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams hit back over equal prize money

There’s controversy at Wimbledon and, at least for the moment, it has nothing to do with excessively gratuitous grunting.

Instead, tennis players are fighting like cats and dogs over Gilles Simon’s comment that women do not deserve equal prize money with men. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, former Wimbledon champions who advanced to the third round today at the All England Club, offered spirited and pointed arguments for their side of the issue.

“It was a big challenge and nobody supported us,” Sharapova said of the fight for equal pay. Sharapova, the No. 1 seed, beat Tsvetana Pironkova today. “It's been a few years since we have gotten that. We're all really proud of it and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger.

“I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his.”

Ooh, le zing.

“She’s way hotter than he is,” Williams cracked.


Gilles Simon leaves Wimbledon, quietly. (Tertius Pickard / AP)
Simon earlier in the week had said that “men's tennis is ahead of women's tennis” and noted that “men [who play best of five sets] spend twice as long on court as women [who play best of three] do at Grand Slams.” After he lost his second-round match to Xavier Malisse on Thursday, only one question from the media concerned his play — ordinarily a tender mercy.

“I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis,” he said. “When that Shakira is singing, she is earning more money than most of the men because everyone wants to see her. That's it.”

Simon was asked whether, given that he lost in straight sets, he should forfeit money for failing to deliver. “Maria is more famous than me,” Simon said. “I know it. She deserves to win more money than me. That's not the problem.”

Granted, the women’s game has not been as deep of late. It hasn’t been able to compare with the rivalries of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Caroline Wozniaki, for instance, was ranked No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam event. But women fought for years for equality in pay and now have it, with the four majors offering the same prize money to men and women.

“Women's tennis is really awesome,” Williams said. “It's a great fight. We fought for years with Billie Jean King and Venus [Williams] as well.”

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By  |  03:01 PM ET, 06/28/2012

 
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