Screaming rows and threats to sue: How a humdrum tennis match turned ugly

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May 8, 2002
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The growing tension between the ATP Tour and a group of dissatisfied players came to a head on Wednesday night as Vasek Pospisil — the leader of the dissenting group — exited the Miami Open amid an expletive-filled rant at chair umpire Arnaud Gabas. Unusually for an angry player, Pospisil was not complaining about a line-call — but rather about the ATP president Andrea Gaudenzi. “An hour and a half yesterday, the chair of the ATP f---ing screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players,” said Pospisil, after losing the first set against the USA’s McKenzie McDonald. “For an hour and a half. The leader of the ATP. Get him out here. F------ a------.” Gabas replied: “That’s enough. If you need to say something to him, then outside this court.” To which Pospisil said, “Why am I here? If you wanna default me I’ll gladly sue this whole organisation.” Men's grand slams must be three sets - it is the only way to save Roger Federer and Andy Murray The outburst came after several days of meetings had failed to produce a united platform from which the players could challenge the ATP leadership. There have been gripes aplenty — about everything from prize money in Miami, which is down by 60 per cent, to the frozen rankings system and the protocols within the tournaments’ various bio-bubbles. As ever in tennis, though, it is one thing to identify the problems and another to fix them. This sport is a nest of interlocking systems — which might be a good thing if those systems worked together seamlessly. Unfortunately, as the former ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers said this week, “Everyone distrusts everyone else. To use a very eloquent Wordsworthian expression, it’s a ratf---.” Telegraph Sport understands Gaudenzi made this very point to Pospisil when the two men met at a players’ meeting on the basketball court in Miami on Tuesday night, with an audience that also included ATP chief executive Massimo Calvelli. Gaudenzi and Calvelli had been at dinner when they were called in to see Pospisil by a couple of players. According to sources, the meeting can be summed up as Pospisil listing his grievances, and then Gaudenzi challenging him to give the solutions and asking if he really thought that tennis’s deep-seated issues — which were spelled out this week in a Bloomberg report — could be so easily solved. (The Bloomberg report suggested that the key problem lies in tennis “accounting for only 1.3 per cent of the total value of global sports TV and media rights, a smaller share than golf, hockey, or cricket”.) Who came off better or worse from the basketball-court meeting will be a matter of opinion. Almost everyone in tennis agrees the ATP leadership have been all but invisible during the Covid crisis. On the other hand, Pospisil seems to have been struggling to create a convincing alternative to the ATP’s admittedly distant way of doing things, and his explosion on the court can hardly be described as statesmanlike. As for the meeting itself, the Open Court website reported: “Gaudenzi and company really went after him [Pospisil]. They called him things like ‘ignorant’, ‘uneducated’ – lovely stuff like that.” Open Court reporter Stephanie Myles added that Pospisil was reportedly in tears afterwards and was still “shaken up” when he went on court. Pospisil posted an apology after the match on social media. “I want to sincerely apologise for my behaviour on the court in Miami earlier today,” he said. “I disrespected the game I love and for that I am truly sorry. By way of explanation, I felt deeply unnerved during a meeting between players and ATP executives last night, and I underestimated the toll those emotions took on me until I stepped onto the court today.”

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