Serena Williams’ husband and fans have denounced billionaire Ion Tiriac’s “racist and sexist” suggestion that the superstar have the “decency” to step down from the sport due to her age and weight.
Tiriac, an 81-year-old former Olympic tennis player and director of the Madrid Open, made the widely-condemned comments during a recent interview on Romanian television, saying: “At this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago … Serena was a sensational player. If she had a little decency, she would retire.”
The comment drew immediate condemnation from fans of Williams, an undisputed and enduring champion of the game, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles – the most by any player in the Open era.
Williams’ husband, Alexis Ohanian Sr, a co-founder of digital giant Reddit, quickly hit back, tweeting: “Safe to say no one gives a damn what Ion Țiriac thinks.”
He later tweeted there was “no holding back” when a “sexist clown” came for his family.
Ohanian’s response was shared by Williams’ fans. One of them, DG, pointed out that Williams was in four finals in 2018-19, more than any other player.
Williams is still ranked 11th in the world and made it to a Grand Slam final in September, and is widely considered the greatest women’s tennis player in the history of the game.
“People have been telling Rafa and Federer they should retire,” DG wrote. “Even Venus who still has an awesome 2017 year … My opinion; champions decide when and how they leave.”
Another Twitter user, Loy Rab, called Tiriac “disgusting”.
It is not the first time Tiriac has made such comments about Williams. In 2018, he was again widely condemned for comments about Williams’ weight.
Williams was asked about it at the time and said she would have words with him. “It’s an ignorant comment, and it’s a sexist comment, and maybe he’s an ignorant man,” she said
Williams is set to compete at the Australian Open in February, a tournament she has won seven times.