This week is being played the ATP 250 of Estoril, in Portugal. In 2008, the tournament was the stage of a withdrawal of pretty bad taste : Gilles Simon withdrew against Flavio Cipolla as he was losing by 6-2, 5-3. Obviously, he’s not the only one to have preferred fleeing rather than fighting. The proof with 5 examples.
1/ Back to the future
Montpellier tournament, February 2015. Malek Jaziri, world number 65th, abandons during his first match as he’s leading by one set to non against the Uzbek Denis Istomin, ranked 61st at the ATP. The official reason ? An elbow injury. The unofficial : in the next round, Jaziri could have faced the Israeli Dudi Sela. Simple coincidence or not, in November 2013, Jaziri already withdrew before a quarter-final at the Tachkent tournament, in Uzbekistan. His opponent should have been the Israeli Amir Weintraub. At the time, it was officially a knee injury which pushed him to throw in the towel. In reality, the Tunisian Tennis Federation (FTT) had pressured its player as the country didn’t want it’s sportsmen to face representatives of the Hebrew state, in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. A year and a half later, the organizers of the Montpellier tournament questioned his absence on Twitter : « Jaziri seemed to have been forced to withdraw », without anyone really knowing the truth in this story. Magic and mystery.
2/ Watch out for the second lucky loser
They’re called lucky losers. Or a player knocked out of the qualifying round, who gets picked anyways to play in the final table. In 2014, at the Toronto Masters 1000, Marinko Matosevic is one of them. He’s supposed to face Malek Jaziri - him again - in the first round but finally withdraws at the last minute. According to beIN Sports, the Australian, in reality, had been expelled of the tournament…for having simulated a shoulder injury in order to have his fellow countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis (216th at the ATP race) back in the table, as he had just won the first set (7-6) in the last match of the qualifying round. In fact, everything happened a few hours before this match, when Matosevic, top-seed of the qualifying round, learned about Kei Nishikori’s withdrawal. As the rules stipulate, the best ranked loser is automatically saved for the final round. Therefore, the Australian would have let his friend win. According to The Australian, the world number 59th even admitted having « withdrew on purpose ». A fault confessed is half redressed ?
3/ « I’m proud of my mate »
In 1972, they defeated the Romanians Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac, hand in hand in Bucarest’s hell, in the BNP Paribas Davis Cup final. Stan Smith and Tom Gorman are true friends. To a point where they offer each other nice gifts. Like in the Masters’ semi-final in 1972, when Gorman had a match point, before his body let him down. « I ran to get a passing-shot but when I hit the ball, I felt a strong pain in my back. My old injury of Wimbledon 1971 had awaken. » He then walks towards the umpire and tells him he has decided to withdraw from the match, leaving Stan Smith to face Ilie Nastase - him again - in the final. Which will commentate the assist : « He probably couldn’t have played it in these conditions but I know a lot of players who would have tried to win the match, telling themselves : ‘the organizers will manage to put on a show for the audience tomorrow night’…I’m proud of my mate ! »
4/ « Twitter break !! »
He managed to get a good start. But handicapped by a knee injury, Benoit Paire is forced to withdraw during the first round of the Barcelona tournament, in 2014. After only an hour of playing time, as his opponent, Andrey Golubev is leading 5-1 in the second set. One game away from the end of the match. A late withdrawal which will bring up a small controversy, a lot of criticism and mockeries on social networks. « Twitter break !! Too many useless comments !! », will go on to answer the player on his Twitter account. Which is often quite useless as well…
5/ « I didn’t quite see her injury »
In the intentional withdrawals category, there are also the preventive ones. The ones which are preferred over a humiliating defeat. In 2012, Angelique Kerber rocked the small world of women’s tennis after giving up on her quarter-final against Maria Sharapova, in Beijing. The score ? 0-6, 0-3. Her reason ? A foot injury. Strange, as until then, she had shown no sign of pain whatsoever. And a question naturally popped up : did she prefer to stop the carnage to avoid a heavier humiliation ? The mystery still remains to this day. Numerous internet users unleashed on Twitter. Even Maria Sharapova had her say : « I didn’t quite see her injury. I was surprised when she called the physio, and even more when she withdrew quickly after. A shy Maria.