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Tennis commentator Doug Adler has sued broadcaster ESPN, weeks after being taken off the air following a remark about Venus Williams at the Australian Open that some interpreted to be racist.

Adler, who has since apologized for how he spoke about Williams, has maintained that he was describing the African-American 13th seed's aggressive style of charging as the "guerilla effect" and not comparing her to a "gorilla."

Adler's lawyer, David Ring, says the comment was a "big nothing" until it hit Twitter.

"And then somehow on Twitter someone said he called Venus a gorilla," Ring told Reuters. "ESPN fires him the next day for something he never even said. Doug Adler lost his career, he lost his reputation.

"By ESPN firing him he was suddenly the guy fired for making a racist remark and it never happened."

Adler, who was a former college tennis player before turning to broadcasting, filed his lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.

"Adler was wrongly terminated by ESPN after Adler described Venus Williams as using 'guerilla' tactics, a description that is commonly used in tennis to describe a form of aggressive play," the lawsuit states.

 

"ESPN bowed to pressure from those using social media, including Twitter, who mistakenly believed Adler used the word 'gorilla' to describe Venus Williams. ESPN wrongfully terminated Adler and has since caused other employees to shun Adler, causing Adler serious financial and emotional harm."

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Serena Williams beat sister Venus in straight sets to win her seventh Australian Open and an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

Serena, 35, won 6-4 6-4 to pass Steffi Graf in the all-time list of major winners since the Grand Slams accepted professional players in 1968.

The American regains the number one ranking from German Angelique Kerber.

Australia's Margaret Court, with 24, is the only player still ahead of Serena in terms of Grand Slam singles titles.

"Congratulations Serena on number 23," said Venus, who at 36 is the oldest Australian Open finalist in the Open era. 

"I have been right there with you, some of them I lost right there against you. It's been an awesome win.

"I'm enormously proud of you, you mean the world to me. I, God willing, would love to come back. Thank you for all the love."

Serena paid tribute to her sister, who was playing her first major final for eight years, saying: "There's no way I would be at 23 without her. There's no way I'd be at one without her. She's my inspiration.

"She's the only reason I'm standing here today. She's the only reason the Williams sisters exist. Thank you for inspiring me. Every time you won this week, I felt like I got a win too."

All-time Grand Slam singles titles leaders
24 (1960-1973) - Margaret Court (Aus) 19 (1923-1938) - Helen Wills Moody (US)
23 (1999-present) - Serena Williams (US) 18 (1974-1986) - Chris Evert (US)
22 (1987-1999) - Steffi Graf (Ger) 18 (1978-1990) - Martina Navratilova (US)

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