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John Inverdale 'explains' Marion Bartoli Wimbledon blunder

John Inverdale said his BBC training prevented him from immediately apologising. Photo: PA

John Inverdale was suffering from hay fever on the day he made his infamous gaffe about Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli being no "looker".

The 56-year-old, who has just signed up with Marion to commentate for ITV on the French Open, told the Radio Times he was feeling unwell and trying to fill time when he made the gaffe. He said:

I was feeling so ill that day, I had terrible hay fever and all I could think of was that I wanted to go home to bed.

I had Andy Murray in the final the next day, I knew I had to be on form. Your mind is going all over the place, we're on air from 12 noon till 7pm with not a single word written and you've got to fill the time.

The BBC received around 700 complaints after John questioned, on Radio 5 Live, whether Marion's father had told her, when she was younger, that she was never going to be a "looker...a Sharapova... you're never going to be 5ft 11in, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that".

Inverdale said he originally was going to use the term "physical attributes" but elected not to, and was then "horrified" by what came out of his mouth instead.

I'm not making excuses here, just trying to explain. And I was going to say that in your early years, you're dealt a set of cards. And actually I was going to use the phrase 'physical attributes' and then - and remember, you're thinking all this in a split second - I thought, 'No, don't say that'. And then I said something far worse.

The sports broadcaster said that he "was horrified" for Marion that, "at her moment of triumph", there was "some idiot distraction".

Bartoli told the Radio Times she was not bothered by the blunder:

I'd won Wimbledon. That was always the most important thing. For a month and a half afterwards I was literally sleeping with my trophy just to make sure it was mine.