Dementieva stays classy as Tarpischev refers to Serena and Venus as Williams “brothers”


In a popular Russian late-night TV show called Evening Urgant, although a bit led on by the host, President of the Russian Tennis Federation Shamil Tarpischev ridiculed the strong physique of Serena and Venus Williams, while Elena Dementieva kept her composure and stayed away from the offensive comments.

Host Ivan Urgant asked “How it feels to play against one of the… hmmm…?” and Tarpischev continued his sentence saying “Williams brothers”. The host proceeded: “Look at our athletes, elegant and beautiful. I have tremendous respect for them [Williams sisters], but once one of the sisters passed next to me, and I found myself in her shadow for about forty seconds. They are so physicially powerful. Weren’t you afraid to play against them?” The retired tennis star Dementieva, looking as lovely as ever, coasted through the unpleasant conversation.

You can watch the full interview here. The controversial part starts somewhere at the eighth minute. I’d like to thank Russian Tennis Info Blog for translating this part of the conversation for us.

On a different note, not resting much after Linz, our photographer Jimmie48 has just arrived in Luxembourg, so make sure to check us back tomorrow for action and ambiance shots from the 250,000 BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open where Andrea Petkovic is top seed.

UPDATE: Whether or not this is a classic case of cultural clash situation, as some people suggest, in which Tarpischev’s comments made at a humorous show were simply blown out of proportion when translated into foreign language and culture, Serena Williams was greatly offended by the coach’s “extremely sexist, racist and bullying” words, the WTA fined him $25,000 and suspended him for a year and Russian Maria Sharapova said: “I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA.”


  1. No, I don’t see anything dignified or “classy” about remaining silent to “unpleasant” commentary, Marija. There is nothing classy about silence and avoidance in the face of this sort of blatant disrespect to two of the sport’s greatest champions, ever. Imagine if the same Venus Williams–the one Dementieva chose not to stand up for–stayed silent about equal pay at Wimbledon?

    I love Elena, but there is nothing classy about such silence. If anything, Dementieva should only be credited for not adding to those disgusting remarks, or even, not paying them any attention since they deserved none. But class? No, that would require action and words.

  2. I think she handled the situation with grace and I don’t think she should have gotten engaged, because that wouldn’t have changed anything and she would get into a pointless discussion. Although, thanks for the comment, judging by Twitter reactions, I see that more people share your view.

  3. This is the matter of sport. Williams are professionals and their use their body 100% to play as good as they can. If Serena could drop 7 kg, I bet she will not be able to win with most of the top 5 players.

  4. It was Elena who made allegations of match fixing against the sisters at Indian Wells in 2001 that then brought about the whole ugly scene at the final. I doubt she would stand up for them in any circumstances.

  5. Agree with you Maria, Elena is all grace & class & as they say “silence is golden”. No need for her to take part in that conversation what so ever!

  6. TennisInfoBlog, and Elena is not that type of person. BTW, thank you once again for bringing this info to us 😉

  7. Well, the WTA has taken a zero tolerance policy on these comments and have banned Tarpishev from all WTA events and have fined him US$25,000.00. They have also asked that he make a public and personal apology to both Sisters. His comments were disgusting and uncalled for and the comments from others who think that he said nothing wrong is abysmal. Disgusting.

  8. Sadly this type of mentality is the norm in Russia, a deeply troubled country with despotic leadership, racist beliefs and backwards thinking. Dementieva should also be condemed for not pulling the bigot up on his comments, but she is too weak minded to do so.. Russian football teams are regularly banned for racist chanting/banners and the country is also notoriously homophobic. Why expect anything else from them? If they didn’t have oil/gas and nukes we’d level the place and start again.

  9. Russians often say: “Wrong gender is called weak”. That means women are often more brave, strong and smart than men.
    Tarpischev actually was making a compliment by calling sportswomen as sportsmen, especially considering it was made at humor show.
    This is classical culture clash situation.
    It is disgussing that translator didn’t mentioned this.
    Also pay attention Tarpischev have told “Williams brothers” BEFORE Urgand started to talk about their body structure. Coach’s words was made when dialogue was going on only about professionalism. Muscules got in conversation only a second LATER!

  10. Silly billy, sadly you don’t undastand a jokes. It was the humorous show, which is very popular in our country. And yes, u r right – it is norm in Russia to joke. And it is not necessary to involve policy here…

    In your comment there are more racism and stupidity then in Russia.

  11. I think her remaining silent was not classy or elegant. The Williams sisters have done a great deal for female tennis and the host basically said Russian women are beautiful athletes and the Williams sisters were ugly and mannish. Dementieva’s actions, rather, inaction, was very disappointing to me. I bet you a MILLION dollars if Serena were on a show and the host spoke of another female tennis player like that, she would have put him in check for doing so. To me, that would have been classy.

  12. If you ask me, this Dementieva looks like a man/transvestite! And, I think she’s horrible because she didn’t try to stand up to these people about Serena and Venus, considering how much influence the two of them have had on the sport and on women in general. And, what the guy says is racist, in that he says that “Russian women” are so feminine, insinuating that black women aren’t. …Black women are BEAUTIFUL! Screw this crap! They should all be suspended and FIRED!

  13. This man was suspended and fined, the lovely Serena greatly offended! But some people like this Tapi… whatever he calls himself still take his disgusting comments as jokes. SHAME ON YOU Stanislav.

    Dementieva was not classy but coward.

  14. OMG, it is really funny. Everybody knows that there are a lot of beautiful black women. Everybody knows that Serena and Venus are great athletes and tennis players. But I will never be ashamed of the fact that someone in my country jokes)))

    Would not be surprised if Serena jokingly calls Venus maypole…


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