ATP slams its board member for insulting Kournikova

June 28th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 28 (DPA) Shamed former player Justin Gimelstob, newly elected to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) board, was forced into an embarrassing retreat after threatening to leave ex-star Anna Kournikova “in tears” during a Team Tennis match next month. The American who has carved out a controversial career as a minor television commentator, made his offensive remarks in a Washington radio interview, saying how much he despised the former Russian top 10 player.

The ATP Friday apologized for the behavior of their newest corporate embarrassment, which comes amid a lawsuit by the Hamburg tournament against the sanctioning body as well as calls for the ouster of ATP supremo Etienne de Villiers.

“The ATP cannot condone any form of intolerance and Justin Gimelstob’s comments last week were unacceptable,” read a statement.

“However, Justin has done the right thing in taking full responsibility for his comments by apologizing publicly to Anna for what he has rightly described as his disappointing and disrespectful comments,” it added.

Gimelstob, a journeyman who never rose into the top 50, made a donation to a women’s sports charity and was censured by his current part-time television employer.

The New Jersey player was particularly cruel to Kournikova, who cut the mold a decade ago for the current crop of talented Russian and Eastern European players on the Women Tennis Association(WTA) .

His remarks also included judgements of French players Tatiana Golovin and Alize Cornet as “sexpots” and a characterisation of Czech Nicole Vaidisova as a “well-developed young lady.”

Vaidisova, who has apparently heard it all before from boors, shrugged off the unwanted attention. “I know his sense of humor a little bit. I know he kind of talks like that a little bit, so I can cut him some slack.”

Gimelstob reportedly went ballistic on the radio when Kournikova’s name was mentioned, with their opposing teams in the one-month hit-and-giggle American enterprise set to face each other.

“Hate is a very strong word - I just despise her to the maximum level just below hate,” Gimelstob said. “I’m going to serve it right at the body, about 128 (mph), right into her midriff.

“If she’s not crying by the time she comes off court then I did not do my job,” he said, while also making sexual references about the blonde woman’s attractiveness.

Kournikova, still a major brand even after not playing for five years, refused to strike back: “I’m just gonna kind of take the high road and not get into this discussion.”

Gimelstob was also forced to apologize to WTA boss Larry Scott and Billie Jean King, co-founder of World Team Tennis, presumably to save his television job at Wimbledon.

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