There was a lot to talk about in the second-round Wimbledon match between Roger Federer and tennis’ newest star Marcus Willis. A reformed party animal who says he would have quit professional tennis were it not for his girlfriend’s encouragement, the previously unknown Willis has captured the public’s imagination with his down-to-earth attitude and underdog backstory.
While he didn’t defeat the seven-time champion, Willis – currently 772 in the world rankings, a cool 769 places behind Federer – aced him nine times and had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
Commentator and former tennis player Andrew Castle (pictured above), however, made sure viewers didn’t fail to notice what was really important: the appearance of Willis’s girlfriend.
When the camera cut to a shot of dental surgeon Jennifer Bate, broadcaster and former tennis player Castle remarked: “It’s a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that.”
While Castle’s comment wasn’t as offensive as that made by another BBC presenter during Wimbledon in 2013 (John Inverdale was forced to apologise after saying of French player Marion Bartoli: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You’re never going to be a looker’?”), the remark still drew strong criticism on social media.
Some Twitter users branded Castle “creepy” and “sexist”, and asked him to “stick to the tennis”.
"It's a pity my dentist doesn't look like that" says commentator Castle re Willis' g'friend. Shut up, thanks Andrew. Stick to the tennis eh?— Steph Driver (@DriverSteph) June 29, 2016
Castle did apologise to one Twitter user, but earlier accused another critic of being “earnest, humourless and probably no fun at all”.
Bate later messaged Castle on Twitter to say that she had not been offended by the remarks, adding that she was more insulted by the fact that she has been consistently referred to as a “dental nurse” in the press.
She recently tweeted that she was surprised to read that she was a “dental nurse” in a tabloid newspaper, given her training at GKT School of Medical Education at King’s College London, writing, “I'm Dr Jennifer Bate, who spent 5 years at GKT London, after 10 A* GCSE's & 5 A-levels”.
Images: Rex Features