A tennis boss said Serena Williams should retire ‘because of her age and weight,’ prompting the tennis champion’s husband to call him racist and sexist
Meredith Cash Jan 5, 2021, 11:53 AM
Ion Tiriac — the billionaire director of the Madrid Open — called on Serena Williams to retire because “at this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago.”
The tennis star’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, called Tiriac “a racist/sexist clown” in response to his comments.
Now 39 years old, Williams is ranked 11th in the world and advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal as recently as September.
It’s tough to challenge Serena Williams’ greatness, but that didn’t stop one of tennis’ biggest purses from trying his hand at it.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion is widely considered the greatest women’s tennis player in the history of the game. Williams is still going strong at 39 years old, as evidenced by her No. 11 world ranking and a Grand Slam semifinal appearance as recently as this fall.
But according to Ion Tiriac — the billionaire director of the Madrid Open — Williams would retire “if she had a little decency.”
The former professional tennis player and hockey star, who has since come into a vast fortune through his business ventures, openly scorned Williams on Romanian television during a recent interview. He insisted that the tennis legend should stop competing professionally because “at this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as he did 15 years ago,” per Romanian publication ProSport.
Williams’ husband, tech guru Alexis Ohanian, was having none of it. On Twitter, the Reddit co-founder rebuked the 81-year-old, writing that it’s “safe to say no one gives a damn what Ion Tiriac thinks” before mocking his lack of Grand Slam success during his playing days.
“Had to Google it … turns out my 3 year old has more Grand Slam victories than this,” Ohanian wrote alongside a photo depicting Tiriac’s career Grand Slam win total — zero.
Later that day, Ohanian promised that there would be “no holding back” on his end “when a racist/sexist clown with a platform comes for my family,” an indirect but obvious jab at Tiriac.
It doesn’t appear as though Williams has any intention of slowing down. In February, she’s slated to compete at the Australian Open — a tournament she’s won a whopping seven times — with a chance to once and for all tie Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam tournament singles titles.
Williams has been chasing Court’s tail for years. Her most recent Grand Slam victory — which famously came while she was eight weeks pregnant — was early in 2017 at the Australian Open. Since returning from giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, Williams has advanced to four Grand Slam semifinals but has yet to break through and add to her title count.
Perhaps Tiriac’s criticism will serve as fuel to push her over the finish line. But until then, it’s safe to say Ohanian will actively defend her against racism and misogyny — even if it comes from one of her sport’s billionaire gatekeepers.