Serena Williams' husband hits back at Ion Tiriac's derogatory comments about his wife

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Alexis Ohanian and Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., husband and daughter of Serena Williams (not pictured), attend the Women's Singles third round match between Serena Williams of the United States and Sloane Stephens of the United States on Day Six of the 2020 US Open - Al Bello/Getty Images
Alexis Ohanian and Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., husband and daughter of Serena Williams (not pictured), attend the Women's Singles third round match between Serena Williams of the United States and Sloane Stephens of the United States on Day Six of the 2020 US Open - Al Bello/Getty Images

Serena Williams’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, leapt to her defence on Thursday after she was the subject of some dismissive comments from Madrid Open owner Ion Tiriac.

In an appearance on Romanian TV at the weekend, Tiriac had suggested that “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.”

This was not the first time that Tiriac – a one-time doubles expert from Romania – had made insensitive remarks about Williams. But Ohanian was not letting his latest broadside pass without comment.

Safe to say no one gives a damn about what Ion Tiriac said,” wrote Ohanian on his Twitter feed, in a message that – ironically – broadened the reach of the original criticism.

He then went back for a second dig, posting a reference to Tiriac’s lack of any major titles as a singles player. (Although Tiriac did win the French Open doubles in 1970 with his protégé, fellow Romanian Ilie Nastase.)

“Had to Google it…” wrote Ohanian this time. “Turns out my 3-year-old has more grand-slam titles than this.” He concluded the post with a couple of “clown” emojis.

There seems to be a pattern for older tennis males, particularly those from the former eastern bloc, to make derogatory comments about Williams. Nastase himself kicked off an acrimonious Fed Cup weekend in 2017 by referring to her unborn baby with the words: “Let’s see what colour it has! Chocolate with milk?” (Later in the same weekend, Nastase would be banished from the court after referring to Britain’s team captain Anne Keothavong and top player Johanna Konta as “f------ bitches".)

Tiriac is 81, and is believed to be worth something like £1.2bn after taking over numerous Romanian businesses on the fall of the Ceausescu regime. Nastase is 74. Another man from the same generation – 72-year-old Shamil Tarpischev, who captains Russia’s Davis Cup team – has also tried to diminish Williams’s achievements by referring to her and her sister Venus as “the Williams brothers”.

Williams is the leading player of her generation by a huge margin, having claimed 23 grand-slam titles, and continues to search for the 24th that would carry her level with Margaret Court at the top of the all-time standings. Yet she has been unable to land another major since the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia in 2017, despite reaching four finals in that time.