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Djokovic Double Faulted in Reopening Can of Worms That Should Have Stayed Shut

22/03/2016 12:33 GMT | Updated 23/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Just when it seemed that anyone who wasn't a troll or rooted in the past had moved on from the debate over whether male and female tennis players should have equal pay, Novak Djokovic just had to go stick his size-nine foot right in it.

I don't think I was alone in being deeply disappointed, as the world Number 1 always came across one of the good guys - although now I'm thinking that perception may have been misplaced.

A sinewy beast on the court, the Djoker has always been a diplomatic - and seemingly liberal - presence off it. He has stood up for charitable causes after natural disasters, and has grown into a worthy ambassador of his sport and its universal graces.

He regularly tweets positive things like 'We, young generations are standing on the shoulders of giants' - which he sent to Billie Jean King - and 'Let's use our voice to do good for this world'. It's just a shame he couldn't follow his own advice on that last one.

Novak is typically at his slick best during press conferences - measured in his thoughts, wise in his words and likeable in his opinions. As with his performances on court, stumbles are few and far between.

Yet this time, seemingly for no reason at all, he chose to flail his way into the issue of equal pay between men and women - a row which has been flogged to death, and which didn't belong in 21st century sport in the first place.

What on earth could he have meant - that men should be paid more? Or women less?

After praising the good work of the WTA, why in God's name did he not just stop talking? How can someone who is 'completely for women's power' simultaneously harbour such outdated views?

The awkwardness after that moment was palpable. Djokovic fumbled, floundered and fought to express his opinions clearly but every way he said it, he seemed more and more like that slightly bigoted uncle who tries to make sense of 'womens' rights' after a couple of Merlots.

Then, in a moment that needed to be seen to be believed, he started barking on about women's 'hormones' and bodies 'being different' - prompting comedy "cut-it-out" hand gestures from the entire sane population of Planet Earth.

Quite rightly, his comments have prompted howls of outrage and disbelief from all quarters. Surely the best thing to do in this situation would be to simply ignore his short-sighted stance, even ridicule it.

But as he is the top male tennis player in the world and a huge star - accompanied by the usual responsibilities of being a role-model and a mouthpiece for his sport - the whole argument will be dusted off and cracked open for business once again.

Perhaps what is even more worrying is how this non-issue turns some liberal-minded men into raging, right-wing numbskulls - as evidenced by the reactions of certain individuals on Twitter today.

For the final time - continuing this debate will not be necessary. Yes, the men's circuit generates more money and has more followers than the women's; yes, men play five sets and women play three at grand slams, and per game women will thus get paid more.

These 'arguments' have well and truly passed their sell-by date. Winning Wimbledon is winning Wimbledon - success in tennis is not, and has never been, based on the amount of time a player spends on the court. End of discussion.

The pretty sizeable difference between 'equal work' and 'work of equal' value appears to still confuse some people. When said people appreciate the concept of value progression - that it is ability that should always count, and not 'hormones' or 'body differences' (in heavily inverted commas) - sport will be a better place for all.

The thought that the aspirations of a young and ambitious female tennis player could be dented by the injustices of being paid less than a man, simply because women's tennis is not quite as popular, is something that should never be an option.

All these things go without saying - and it's depressing that people have to say them once again. Believe what you like Novak - but next time stick to the day job you do so well.