MOSCOW - Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) President Shamil Tarpishchev has officially apologised for making an inappropriate comment about the Williams sisters on state television.
Appearing on a chat show, the programme host said: "I was at the Olympics, where Maria Sharapova was in the final, playing with one, with one of the....". Tarpishchev responded by saying "Williams brothers".
The Women's Tennis Federation fined him US$25,000 (S$31,880) and demanded a personal apology as well as disqualifying him for a year from working in an organisational capacity.
"Serena and Venus (Williams) are without doubt top sportswomen and they have played tennis to the highest possible level, perhaps even a different level," Tarpishchev said in a statement on the RTF website.
"The Williams sisters will always stand out on the tour, as they do in the sport thanks to their talent and successes. They have managed to set new standards and results that will become the new benchmark for other players."
"My comments were spontaneous and happened after we went live on the 'Evening with Urgant' show and they not only put tennis in a bad light, but also drives a wedge into the strong and friendly tennis family within our sport," Tarpishchev added.
"I did not want to cause any offence or make fun of any of the sportsmen. I am sorry that the joke I made, when translated into English was taken out of the context of a chat show and so much attention has been brought towards it.
"I don't think that the incident needed to be blown out of proportion. Everything that was said on the TV show was said without meaning to cause offence." Tarpishchev is also an International Olympic Committee member.
American Serena Williams, 33, is the current world number one and has won 18 grand slam singles titles.
The 34-year-old Venus, a former world number one, has seven grand slam singles titles to her name.