A leading BBC sports presenter was deluged by a barrage of criticism on Saturday after he lambasted Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli for not being "a looker".

The BBC was forced to apologise after John Inverdale made his remarks on a radio programme following the Frenchwoman's 6-1, 6-4 win over Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the women's singles final.

Inverdale reportedly told 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'?

The BBC issued a rapid apology.

"We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise," said a spokesman.

Bartoli, 28, shrugged off the incident.

"It doesn't matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry.

"But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes."

Inverdale insisted that he had meant his remarks to be light-hearted and said he was a great admirer of the French player who won her first Grand Slam title in her 47th major appearance.

"She is an incredible role model for people who aren't born with all the attributes of natural athletes," he said.

...,/.,