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BBC announcer comments on tennis champion's physical appearance, sparks debate

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 11:42 a.m. MDT

Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy after winning against Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy after winning against Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Marion Bartoli still can't belive that she is the current women's Wimbledon champion. It happened on July 6, after the French player defeated Germany's Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4.

But since her championship match, viewers and Bartoli herself have responded to a comment made by BBC announcer John Inverdale before her last match, according to BBC, with regard to Bartoli's physical appearance.

When discussing Bartoli's playing style, Inverdale said:

"Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, 'You're never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”

Shortly after Inverdale's remarks, Twitter erupted with thousands of tweets discussing Bartoli's physical appearance.

Marion Bartoli of France plays a return to Sabine Lisicki of Germany during the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Marion Bartoli of France plays a return to Sabine Lisicki of Germany during the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A tweet from a person named Dan said: "Bartoli looks like she's a cross between man and ape. #NotAWimbledonBabe."

Will Showers commented: "Someone as ugly and unattractive as Bartoli doesn't deserve to win."

Others refused to join the mockery and came to Bartoli's defense.

"In case you didn't know, in order to be respected as a female athlete apparently you have to be beautiful," Katie Maximick wrote.

Dr. Robyn Silverman chimed in, "REALLY? Marion Bartoli wins Wimbledon and announcer immediately remarks about her lack of good looks."

Inverdale attempted to justify his comment by saying he had simply poked fun "in a nice way at how she looks."

Marion Bartoli of France speaks at a news conference after winning the Women's singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Tom Lovelock, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Marion Bartoli of France speaks at a news conference after winning the Women's singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Tom Lovelock, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The statement only generated additional ire; BBC reported that nearly 700 viewers called in as of Monday night to complain.

Yet when asked about the remark made by Inverdale, Bartoli continued to be professional, remaining positive in her response.

"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," Bartoli said. "But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing, and I am so proud of it."

Her father, Dr. Walter Bartoli, also expressed his love for his daughter rather than any bitter feelings for those who have judged him and mocked his champion daughter.

"I am not angry," Walter Bartoli said. "She is my beautiful daughter. The relationship between Marion and me has always been unbelievable, so I don’t know what this reporter is talking about."

Marion Bartoli of France speaks at a news conference after winning the Women's singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013.  (Tom Lovelock, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Marion Bartoli of France speaks at a news conference after winning the Women's singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships, Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (Tom Lovelock, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Marion Bartoli even commented that Inverdale should meet her in her "ball gown and heels" while at the Wimbledon Championships 2013 Winners Ball before he classifies her as a "no looker."

Since Inverdale's statment, A BBC spokesman has addressed the issue, and Inverdale sent an apology to Marion Bartoli.

"I have apologized to Marion by letter, if any offense was caused — and I do hope that we can leave the matter there now," Inverdale said.

Having had a similar sports commenter mishap earlier this year during the NCAA football championship, BBC's incoming head of news and current affairs, James Harding, discussed whether there is a problem with gender imbalance among sports commentators.

Harding assured many at the Women in Journalism event in London that he would take action.

Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy after winning against Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy after winning against Sabine Lisicki of Germany in the Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, Pool) (Stefan Wermuth, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Jim Litke with the Assciated Press turned the attention to the male Wimbledon athletes.

"A glance at the list of men's singles champions at Wimbledon the last dozen years reveals plenty of pleasant-enough looking chaps, though not a single slam-dunk male model in the bunch," Litke wrote.

"No matter. Each one was instantly fawned over the moment he held the trophy aloft, celebrated for toughness, smarts and the kind of devotion that know no quit. Marion Bartoli displayed all of those qualities — and more. … But because she's a woman, at least one man behind a microphone couldn't stop there."

Jane McManus and many other women discussed on ESPNW.com the age-old stereotypes many female athletes are forced to live with.

"There is this grating assumption that women want first to be supermodels, and if that dream dies early, they can console themselves by winning the Wimbledon title," McManus wrote. "I mean, how dare Bartoli become an excellent tennis player when she isn't alluring enough to set one BBC analyst's heart aflutter?"

Men's singles champion Britain's Andy Murray and Women's singles champion France's Marion Bartoli pose with their trophies during the Wimbledon tennis Champions Ball in London, Sunday July 7, 2013.  (Adam Davy, AP) Men's singles champion Britain's Andy Murray and Women's singles champion France's Marion Bartoli pose with their trophies during the Wimbledon tennis Champions Ball in London, Sunday July 7, 2013. (Adam Davy, AP)

Sarah Spain expressed that many other women face similar reactions to their physical appearances when their profession places them in the spotlight.

"As a society, we judge the worth of a woman first by her looks, then by her achievements. In every profession, you can find a woman who is lauded or criticized for her appearance, despite the fact that her appearance is in no way related to her job," Spain wrote.

"Adele sings like an angel, but every time she performs at an awards show, the talk is of her weight and not her talent."

Despite the controversial statements, Bartoli has chosen to focus on the positive aspects of her Wimbledon experience.

"Thanks so much to all of you for taking the time to drop your wonderful messages, goes straight to my heart! Wimbledon has been incredible," Bartoli tweeted Wednesday.

In this photo taken Sunday, July 7, 2013, the Wimbledon Women's singles 2013 tennis champion Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy during the Champions' Dinner at a hotel in London. (AP Photo/AELTC, Bob Martin) (Bob Martin, ASSOCIATED PRESS) In this photo taken Sunday, July 7, 2013, the Wimbledon Women's singles 2013 tennis champion Marion Bartoli of France poses with the trophy during the Champions' Dinner at a hotel in London. (AP Photo/AELTC, Bob Martin) (Bob Martin, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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