Rafael Nadal is a fan of the new rule regarding on-site pre-tournament withdrawals that has been introduced at the Grand Slams and ATP tournaments.
The rule, brought to the majors this season, allows players who are knowingly unfit to receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money, if they pull out of the tournament before their opening match, allowing a lucky loser to take their spot and get the other half of the prize money.
The implementation of this new rule at the Slams has led to an Open Era-record eight lucky losers making it into the main draw at the French Open this week.
Also to discourage unfit players from contesting and contributing to uncompetitive opening matches, Grand Slams now have the right to hand out hefty fines – up to the amount of the first round prize money – if a player withdraws or performs below professional standards during a first round match.
Mischa Zverev was fined $45,000 at the Australian Open this year for what the tournament perceived as a poor performance in his first round against eventual semi-finalist Chung Hyeon. Zverev retired while down 2-6, 1-4 during that match. The German explained that he had early signs of a cold but got worse during his clash with Chung.
“They probably wanted to set a warning example and that ended up being me,” Zverev said at Roland Garros, as quoted by Insideout-tennis.de.
This week in Paris, fellow German Peter Gojowczyk also fell foul to the ‘First Round Performance’ rule, getting slapped with a €25,000 fine for retiring during his opener against Cameron Norrie. Gojowczyk, who played the final in Geneva last weekend and practised at Roland Garros on Sunday, retired from his match in Paris citing hip pain while trailing Norrie 1-6, 0-2.
Another German, another warning example – this time Peter Gojowczyk gets a massive fine. Said his hip/groin started hurting early in the first set vs Norrie: was a little tired in the Geneva finals but had a normal practice on Sunday. #RG18https://t.co/hWkOmctXAe
— René Denfeld (@Renestance) May 30, 2018
Nadal was asked after his second round victory over Guido Pella on Thursday about the new rules and the world No. 1 had only positive things to say.
“Being 100 per cent honest with you, I think is a good rule, because there is a lot of money on the Slams. For a lot of players, that they are inside the tournament of a Grand Slam and they have a physical problem in that week, just playing tournament helps a lot to save the year,” said Nadal.
“Because it looks very nice on the prize money, but then you have to pay tax, then you pay coaches, then you pay all the travels. And every year the expenses are high. So the amount of money that we are — is not that much comparing what the prize money says. I’m not talking for myself, obviously. But for a lot of players be inside a Grand Slam tournament is a big help for keep surviving, no?
“So I believe is fair that if they are inside and they have the chance to retire than keep winning the money is win to win, no? The tournament wins because there is no bad players or sick players playing, and for them, he deserve, because he made the right things to be there and he deserve that prize money so they still get it.”
Nadal made an on-site withdrawal ahead of the Acapulco tournament in February because he hadn’t yet recovered from his psoas injury and the Spaniard revealed that he chose not to take his half of the first-round prize money.
“At the end of the day, is the decision. Even when you’re retired, you can take the prize money or you cannot. That’s the position I was in Acapulco, I retired, I was inside the draw and they asked me if I wanted the prize money and I say no, because I believe it was fair enough that I don’t need that prize money so the player who was in has to win that prize money. He deserve, he was in, no?
“But is good that you have the decision, because then if you go inside and you retired, is not nice for nobody.”
The Grand Slam Rulebook states that a few things are taken into consideration by the referee in order to determine whether a player deserves to be fined under the ‘First Round Performance’ rule. Such factors include, but are not limited to the following:
Argentine No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman agrees with Nadal that the new ‘On-site Withdrawal’ rule is positive but admits that it can be tricky when it comes to deciding whether someone deserves a fine or not under the ‘First Round Performance’ rule.
“I don’t know who is taking the decision after the matches, for example the Gojowczyk match, I didn’t see the match so I can’t talk about that. I’m not sure,” Schwartzman said on Thursday after his straight-sets win against Adam Pavlasek.
“I think it’s a good new rule for the players, because it’s a lot of money in these kind of tournaments.”
Asked if he found the ‘First Round Performance’ rule fair, even though it makes an assumption about a player’s intention, Schwartzman said: “Not sure, it depends on the match. If the player can’t play, of course it’s fair, but if maybe they had the injury inside the match, for sure no.”
— diego schwartzman (@dieschwartzman) May 31, 2018
Malek Jaziri insists he walks away from Roland Garros with no regrets following his second round exit to Richard Gasquet, and paid tribute to his coach Christophe Freyss, who came to support him despite having a heart procedure done two days earlier.
Jaziri, who was trying to reach the French Open third round for the first time, fell 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 to the 27th-seeded home favourite in front of a buoyant crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The defeat brings to a conclusion Jaziri’s best clay-court campaign to-date, having reached his first ATP final in Istanbul on the red dirt earlier this month.
The Tunisian, who is likely to re-enter the top-60 after Roland Garros, won his opening round over Mikhail Youzhny in five sets, without Freyss in his corner as the French coach suffered a blood clot in his heart on the eve of the match that required a procedure on Tuesday.
“Yesterday he was released from the hospital. They told him you have to be less stressed but he wanted to come today to be with me,” Jaziri said after his second round on Thursday.
“He knows I need him a lot, he gives me a lot of positive energy, he tried to push. Thanks to him that he came, I know it’s not easy for him at all, to be here today after a tough few days.
“He tried to push me the maximum that he could. He was close to die, the doctor told him ‘you shouldn’t be here anymore’. I tried to take motivation from him, from my family, from the people from my country as well.
“I gave 100 per cent so no regrets today, I gave everything on court and in the end Richard was better than me.”
Gasquet next faces 10-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and the 34-year-old Jaziri admits he is relishing the opportunity face the Spaniard.
“I knew the winner can play Nadal, if he wins as well. Who doesn’t want to play Nadal or these top players? We play this game for these kind of things, to play on these stadiums with these amazing champions. I wanted but maybe next tournament, who knows?” said the Tunisian.
Jaziri believes his lack of consistency throughout the match is what cost him against Gasquet, who is now 2-0 head-to-head against him.
“I think overall in the match I was a bit up and down and I think consistency was the key of the match. I think that’s why he won this match. But I keep going with a positive mindset. I think I had a great season on clay. I didn’t have an easy draw at all,” added Jaziri.
“Everything touches everything. When your consistency goes down, it touches the mentality, and then physically, it’s like a pyramid. I think I improved a lot in many other things. Keep working, I’m not where I want to be. When you want to beat these guys in five sets you have to keep your intensity and energy up always.”
On his part, Gasquet was pleased to get through the match in four sets.
“I know it was a long match. For a little while I was not playing that well. The weather was stifling on the court. I didn’t manage to break back, and then obviously he felt confident, served well, played well. So I knew I had to give everything I had at the beginning of the third set to make the difference and not to leave too much in it of my energy in the second set,” said the ex-world No. 7.
“So I got ready beginning of the third set. We had long and hard balls, and I held my serve. You know when you’re one set love, you don’t look too proud obviously. And then in the fourth set I had a slight problem in my thigh. And I’m glad I won, especially the third set, which was a difficult one.
“So I was glad to get 6-3, 6-0, because at the end of the second set I wasn’t sure I was going to win like that.”
Jaziri will turn his focus to the grass-court season with his next tournament being s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
Celebrity Madridista Rafael Nadal paid tribute to Zinedine Zidane — who shocked the football world on Thursday by announcing he has resigned as Real Madrid coach — and hopes the Frenchman returns to the Spanish club in the future.
The Spanish world No. 1 admits that, like the rest of the world, he did not expect Thursday’s sudden news of Zidane’s departure.
“Of course was a surprise for everybody, no? But at the same time, Zidane is a top person. He’s a person that is tough to accept that he’s leaving for different things, different reasons. First thing because he’s a great coach and he was having a lot of success with our team,” Nadal told reporters following his straight-sets win over Guido Pella in the French Open second round on Thursday.
Zidane led Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League titles during his short two-and-a-half-year tenure as manager, along with six more trophies.
Nadal received his first of 10 Roland Garros trophies from Zidane on Court Philippe Chatrier back in 2005.
“Second thing, he’s a good person, normal person, humble person,” Nadal continued.
“He represents, in my opinion, the right values, and he’s a perfect example how somebody with a lot of success have to do the things of every day with being normal, being humble without saying negative things about the players, about the club, about nobody. Never, I never heard, referees, nothing.
“He was always fine and smiling on the press conference. Even when the things were not going well this year, that was so difficult moments. At the end of the year, he won the Champions League and nothing happens, but during the year has been a very tough year during the year for the team.
“He always have been positive and believing on the players and on the club. He deserve to choose what’s better for him. For my side, I just can say thanks for all the things that he did for Madrid. I hope will be back.
“And like sportsman and person, just thanks for the right examples that he gave to the rest of the people.”