Moscow: Russian tennis federation chief Shamil Tarpischev on Saturday said he was sorry for a jibe he made concerning Serena and Venus Williams on a Russian TV chat show, claiming that his words had been misinterpreted.

Venus (left) and Serena Williams. Pic/Getty Images
Venus (left) and Serena Williams. Pic/Getty Images

The administrator, after prompting from the chat show host, referred to the American siblings as the "Williams brothers."

His remarks were translated into English and brought a furious reaction from the powerful Women's Tennis Association (WTA), which fined him $25,000 and banned him from tennis for a year.

"Serena and Venus (Williams) are without doubts outstanding athletes," Tarpischev said in a statement released by Russia's tennis federation.

"They both perform tennis of top class and embody strength and persistence. The situation that has spontaneously emerged during the late night chat show had a bad influence on the perception of tennis in general and splits our friendly and cohesive team."

Tarpischev added that he had harboured no intention to insult the sisters. "I'm sorry that the joke which was taken out of context and attracted so much attention," he added.

"I think this story does not deserve the attention it is receiving. Everything that I said on TV was said without a malicious intent."