Following Bartoli’s straight sets victory over the German Sabine Lisicki, John Inverdale asked BBC Radio 5 Live listeners: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little 'You’re never going to be a looker? You’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight.’”
Bartoli, whose passionate determination – exemplified by her repeated fist pumping – gained her the admiration of Centre Court, won her first Grand Slam title 6-1, 6-4.
At one stage during the second set Bartoli’s unrelenting focus and powerful hitting reduced her 23-year-old opponent to tears.
Once a stunned Lisicki, the 15th seed, rose to her feet, Bartoli celebrated becoming the first Frenchwoman in seven years to win at SW19 by climbing up to the players’ box to embrace family and friends.
But in the commentating box Inverdale appeared determined not to join in the general admiration of the new champion.
He later tried to make amends by saying: “We poked fun, in a nice way, about how she looks ... but Marion Bartoli is an incredible role model.”
After being asked about Inverdale’s comments a BBC spokesman said last night: “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise.”
Inverdale ran into trouble in 2006 during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards coverage on Radio FiveLive, when he appeared to make a disparaging remark about the Duchess of Cambridge.
During the programme Inverdale asked others in the studio if they could remember the name of the horse Princess Anne rode when she won the European Championship in 1971.
After they failed to come up with an answer Inverdale said: “Camilla?”
Several people complained to the BBC in 2009 about what they described as Inverdale’s “sexist and patronising view” of women’s tennis during the Wimbledon championships.
One listener said: “John Inverdale is a disgrace, with his sexist patronising view of the Women’s game. Why is he presenting the flagship show of the BBC at Wimbledon, when he clearly understands little about tennis, and constantly tries to deride and belittle the women’s game?”
Another listener said: “I have complained to the BBC on numerous occasions about his blatant sexism regarding the women's game, but to no avail.”
Told of Inverdale’s remarks, the new Wimbledon champion’s father, Dr Walter Bartoli, said:” I am not angry. She is my beautiful daughter.
“The relationship between Marion and me has always been unbelievable so I don’t know what this reporter is talking about.
“When she was five years old she was playing like every kid and having fun on the tennis court.”
He said he would be celebrating with champagne last night with the French tennis ace along with members of her support team to mark a “wonderful event”.