Mag By So Press
Daniel Köllerer or the story of the most hated player of the tour
Banned for life in 2011, Daniel Köllerer isn't really missed by his former colleagues on the ATP tour. Unbearable and provocative, the Austrian multiplied the controversies and hostilities. But at the end of day, "Crazy Dani" was maybe just a tennis player and a very sad man.
Rafael Nadal has never had the chance to cross paths with Daniel Köllerer on a court. The Spaniard was then not part of the many enemies that have marked the career of the Austrian. But that was before the latter talked to the Austrian website Sportwoche in September 2013: "Nadal cannot be negative. After seven months off due to injury, he returned and won 10 tournaments out of 13. It's impossible, impossible! Nobody believes that he doesn't take anything. But imagine what it would mean for tennis if Nadal tested positive." Moving forward, "Crazy Dani" wondered how David Ferrer could smoke a cigarette before his matches and then run like a rabbit. If David Ferrer has never answered those unfounded accusations, no more than Rafa, his uncle Toni Nadal, however, preferred to reply with contempt: "I don't even know that person. Köllerer has no credibility."
The uncle and coach of the Majorcan is lying on one point: he has to know Daniel Köllerer. In eight years on the ATP Tour, the native of Wels has earned a reputation to make John McEnroe looks like an angel... But he never had the same results than “superbrat”. The legend of "Crazy Dani" began on a tour in South America in 2006. Like his idol Thomas Muster, Köllerer was fond of clay. And as his illustrious compatriot, he already had the reputation to be an angry and temperamental player. Problems with his opponents and insults to the umpires, the Austrian kept going off the rails and earned a six-month suspension for his efforts. But at 22, he still had the excuse of age. Roger Federer was a naughty boy before becoming a Zen master. Except that Daniel Köllerer never reached the age of reason.
Spitting and racial abuse
While his career wasn’t really taking off and he seemed stuck in Challengers tournament, he continued to churn out scandals wherever he posed (and broke) his racquet. Sometimes his opponents refused to shake his hand at the end of the match, such as the Brazilian Marcos Daniel that he called a "monkey" and advised to "return to his jungle." Federico Luzzi (who died in 2009 from leukaemia) once had the weakness to accept his handshake. Except that the Italian didn't see that his opponent had spit in his hand before. With such behaviour, he was struggling to find sparring partners to train with him. "All the players hate him, summed up his compatriot Stefan Koubek, who also almost strangled him during a game of the Austrian championship. In his mouth, the words "asshole" is a flower. If spectators could understand his insults, they would break his neck."
Nobody likes him? Oh well. He's not on the tour to make friends. "I don't care about what others say about me. If I have to change, I will do it for me, not to please others," he said in 2009. At that time, the Austrian seemed (slightly) calmer and results were showing it. He was flirting with the top 50 (55th in October, his highest ranking) and found in Knogler Simone, a coach who understood him or at least tried. "As soon as he sets foot on the court, Dani acts like he’s fighting for his life," analysed the coach. But neither Knogler nor the psychological counsellor that he was seeing could manage to fundamentally change him.
Jesus, grief and court number 8
In 2010, the Austrian lost his mother to cancer. If he kept playing on the tour, the passion was gone. Köllerer didn’t really give much during his matches. At Roland Garros, he offered the spectacle of a lost player and man in his defeat in the first round against the Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili. On the court number 8, he discussed his unhappiness with some Austrian fans: "You can't imagine how I much pain I'm in." But the worst was yet to come. In May 2011, he got banned for life for posting on his website information on odds for three games between October 2009 and July 2010. In 2012, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed the sentence. At not even 30 years old, Daniel Köllerer had to give up a sport that he loved to hate. A cruel end for a boy who had tattooed on his body "Jesus walks with me" and "Number 1". Obviously, Jesus had other plans for him.