More people watch me than you, Sharapova tells Simon

Tennis

Wimbledon golden girl Maria Sharapova delivered a stinging rebuke to Frenchman Gilles Simon for his outspoken criticism of equal prize money by telling him, 'You'll never be as popular as me'.

Simon caused an uproar at the All England Club by reigniting the thorny issue of equal cash rewards, claiming that the men's game is more attractive and that by playing five sets they deserve the greater rewards.

But Sharapova, who is the world's highest paid sportswoman and completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open this month, told Simon he was wide of the mark.

"No matter what anyone says, or the criticisms that we get, despite everything else, I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his, so....," said Sharapova.

"We women have fought so long to get equal prize money. It was a big challenge and nobody really supported us. It's been a few years since we've gotten that.

"We're all really proud of it, and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger."

Sharapova found support from fellow former world number one Serena Williams, the four-time Wimbledon champion and the holder of 13 Grand Slam titles, who told Simon he was fighting a losing battle.

"She's way hotter than he is, so more people will watch Maria," said Williams.

"Women's tennis is awesome. It's a great fight. We fought for years with Billie Jean King, and Venus as well, they really set the pattern on what we should do.

"I started playing tennis at two years old. I'm sure he started when he was two years old, as well. I worked just as hard as he did.

"I'm sure he continues to work hard as I work hard, as well as everyone that's on a professional level."

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