In the possible wake of Mischa Zverev’s 30,000€ fine in Melbourne, the many Lucky Losers have been one of Paris‘ storylines so far.


„They probably wanted to set a warning example and that ended up being me“, Mischa Zverev said when asked about the Lucky Loser-Influx at Roland Garros this year. In January, the 30-year-old was fined a record 45.000 Australian Dollars after he retired during his first round match against Hyeon Chung at 2:6 1:4. Zverev had struggled with a mild fever the day of the match against the eventual semi-finalist of the Australian Open 2018.

„Sorry, bad luck“

„I haven’t talked with the ones who set up the rule but I feel that you have to adjust it a little. The way it’s written down in the rules compared to the way it was implemented in my case was pretty unfair. The rule itself is ok and good per se — but you have to fine-tune it“, Zverev explained after his first ever main draw victory at the French Open.

„If you are genuinely injured and you don’t play the lead-up tournaments, that rule makes sense. However, if you’re pretty much 100% but you wake up not feeling your best due to a cold, you can’t really treat those two things the same way. You can’t just say: „Right, let’s set a warning example, he didn’t feel well – sorry, bad luck, now you’re getting the big fine““

The explanation given to Zverev for his massive fine: the first round retirements of e.g. Aleksandr Dolgopolov (3:6 0:3 vs Roger Federer R1) or Martin Klizan (3:6 0:2 vs Novak Djokovic R1) at Wimbledon 2017. Nick Kyrgios and Viktor Troicki were another two of several players who pulled the plug during the first round in Wimbledon, many having had injury woes leading up to the tournament. Klizan already retired in his previous match in Antalya just days before the start of Wimbledon. „Repeat Offender“ Dolgopolov had not been able to finish his last match in s‘-Hertogenbosch. In similar fashion the Ukranian retired from back-to-back matches in Cincinnati and at the US Open 2016.

 

37.5°C outdoor and body temperature 

„The rules clearly state that you have to play „normal“ matches at your previous two tournaments – I did“, Zverev said. In the lead up to Melbourne he played Brisbane and Sydney. „During the match you can’t receive a warning due to „Lack Of Effort“ and I didn’t get one. I just simply couldn’t finish the match because I started feeling a lot worse really quickly.“

On the day of his first round match in Melbourne, Zverev had consulted a doctor several times. Except for a slight fever of 37.5°C, no other symptoms had been diagnosed — no headache, sore throat or dizziness.

„Then I was on court and I really didn’t feel great. I had taken 1000mg Paracetamol, it was hot outside and obviously I wasn’t at 100% as the match went on. Afterwards I was told that I shouldn’t have been listening to the doctor because I’m supposed to know my body better than he does. Who am I supposed to listen to then? If I had done exactly that at an ATP event I would have been fined for doing just that“, Zverev recalled, with a faint hint of exasperation in his voice. The older brother of Alexander „Sascha“ Zverev is usually a relaxed and laid-back person but revisiting his Australian Open 2018 didn’t leave him unfazed.

Lucky Loser-Invasion in Paris

„I appealed and I obviously didn’t intend to cheat, I didn’t care about the prize money. I was seeded, I had quarterfinal points to defend but the ITF said:“You knew you weren’t 100% and you should have known better, so that a fresh, healthy Lucky Loser could have taken your place.“ There have been so many instances that people don’t enter a tournament at 100% and somehow get through their first round and then get better – unfortunately I didn’t in Melbourne.“

The aftermath of the Zverev-situation in Melbourne: a significant number (8) of „fresh, healthy“ players made their way into the Roland Garros main draw after others withdrew (just) in advance, three of them being Nick Kyrgios, Aleksandr Dolgopolov and Viktor Troicki. As a result of the newly implemented rule they still received half of the money of a first round loser. Hence Simone Bolelli got a chance to push Nadal whereas Dolgopolov might have struggled to finish the match. Mischa Zverev, admittedly, did not have the complete scope of the „Lucky Loser-Saga“ in Paris.

„I would have to take a look at the reasons for people’s withdrawals. I don’t know if the majority woke up with a stomach pain or whether they had been injured for a longer time. At the end, all of it does make sense: for example, you knew that Kyrgios or Troicki had been struggling for a while. That’s what the rule is good for“, the lefty said in small interview room 3.

„If you do apply the rule the right way, that is great. If someone has been injured for two months and goes to a Grand Slam regardless that’s one thing — but in my case it was a little different.“

 

If the ITF wanted to set a warning example, they probably succeeded: in the wake of Zverev’s record fine players appear to have been less reluctant to withdraw on the eve of Roland Garros – or even two hours before their first round encounters. Without those withdrawals we would not have had stories like Mohamed Safwat on Centre Court or Marco Trungelliti’s tremendous Road Trip story with his brother, mother and abuelita – and those certainly enhance a Grand Slam.

However, it remains rather doubtful whether the example was made out in the case of the right player or case, taking everything into consideration.

(Bild (c) imago)