SINGAPORE -- Serena Williams said comments by the head of the Russian tennis federation referring to her and older sister Venus as "brothers" were bullying, sexist and racist, and that she supported the one-year suspension imposed by the WTA against the official.
Shamil Tarpischev also was fined $25,000 for making the comments on Russian television. He also said the sisters were "scary" to look at.
"I think the WTA did a great job of taking [the] initiative and taking immediate action to his comments," Williams said yesterday in Singapore for the WTA Championships that begin today. "I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying."
Asked whether he regretted his comments, Tarpischev said at the Kremlin Cup that the program on which he spoke was "a humorous show." When asked about his ban, Tarpischev said: "I can't comment. I don't understand it."
In a statement released by the Russian tennis federation, Tarpischev denied "malicious intent" and said his quotes were taken out of context. The WTA said it would seek his removal as chairman of the Kremlin Cup, which ended yesterday.
Russia's Maria Sharapova, also in Singapore for the WTA finals, condemned the comments.
"I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for," she said. "I'm glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA. It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee."
Tarpischev has been chairman of the Kremlin Cup, Russia's only WTA event, for all of its 18 years, and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. During the 1990s, he was the tennis coach to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
He made his comments during an appearance on a Russian talk show this month alongside former Olympic singles champion Elena Dementieva. When Dementieva was asked what it was like playing against the Williams sisters, Tarpischev interjected and called them the "Williams brothers." He also said that "it's scary when you really look at them."
Williams, the world No. 1 at the age of 33, is going into the WTA Championships on the back of another stellar year, winning six titles including the U.S. Open. -- AP