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Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 13:16 UK

Gimelstob sorry over sexist jibes

Anna Kournikova
Kournikova now occasionally plays in exhibition matches

Former tennis star Justin Gimelstob has had to apologise after he described several female players as "sexpots".

The 31-year-old, a two-time Grand Slam winner at mixed doubles, also made disparaging remarks about the retired Russian player Anna Kournikova.

"I just despise her to the maximum level below hate," said Gimelstob of Kournikova during a radio interview.

But Gimelstob, now a senior official in the game, later said: "Kournikova and others deserve my deepest apologies."

Gimelstob, who retired from the men's tour last year and is on the board of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), made his initial comments during a breakfast sports programme in Washington DC.

The American said he would try to hurt Kournikova, with whom he trained as a youth player, during a forthcoming doubles match.

"I'm going to serve it right at the body, about 129mph, 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.

During the hour-long interview, Gimelstob called young French player Alize Cornet a "sexpot" and said Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova was a "well-developed young lady".

Gimelstob was suspended for one match of the World Team Tennis exhibition tour - a league founded by Billie Jean King, a well-known feminist and a holder of 12 Grand Slam titles.

King said Gimelstob's suspension sent "a clear message that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated, especially in a league founded on the principles of equal opportunities for all."

Serena Williams, a team-mate of Gimelstob on the Washington Kastles WTT team, said his comments were unprofessional, and added that his description of Kournikova was "totally uncalled for".

World number 22 Vaidisova was, however, willing to forgive Gimelstob for his remarks.

I take full responsibility for all the words that came out of my mouth

Justin Gimelstob
"I know Justin. He's a very nice guy," she said. "I think it's just you say something and you don't really mean it. It happens."

In his apology, Gimelstob said he was "extremely disappointed" in himself.

"I take full responsibility for all the words that came out of my mouth," he said in a statement.

"I recognize that my access to communicate to the public should be used in a positive way, and this was clearly not the case last week."

Kournikova, who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in her debut in 1997, did not want to give Gimelstob's outburst any more publicity.

"I'm just going to take the high road and not get into this discussion," said the 27-year-old.

"WTT is not about those sorts of things, it's about keeping it fun and positive. I don't want to give it any more significance than it has already received."

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