Monday 16 January 2017

Video of angry player chasing official off court shines harsh light on chaotic world of Futures tennis

Simon Briggs, tennis correspondent

Published 21/04/2016 | 07:33

This video captures the moment on Monday when the Iranian tennis player Majed Abedini loses his rag and chases after the court supervisor in a low-level tournament in Turkey.

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Coming only a week after 69-year-old Gail Falkenberg was filmed winning a match at an equivalent women’s event in Alabama, these images offer further insight into the weird and often chaotic world of Futures tennis.

Abedini, 29, was playing a 20-year-old Briton, Imran Aswat, in the second round of qualifying for a $10,000 Futures event in Antalya, Turkey. Abedini is not successful enough to have a world ranking, and the ATP website has logged his total career prize money as US$36.

But according to one British player who witnessed this fit of temper, his short fuse has earned him a certain notoriety at the local players’ hotel.

“I remember seeing this guy for the first time in 2014,” said the player, who wished not to be named. “He has played countless tournaments in Turkey and he basically lives in the hotel but if you look at his results he has barely won a match.

“We’d heard that he had had a shouting match with one of the referees the previous week so we weren’t all that surprised when it kicked off. Imran was wining pretty comfortably [taking the first set 6-0], and the guy started coming out with things like ‘I f---ed your mum’ and screaming obscenities. The court supervisor came on to give him a warning for his language.

“The first time, the Iranian guy started screaming ‘No, no, get off, not you,’ so I don’t know if it was the same referee he had already had one row with. Then there were a few more loud expletives, the court supervisor comes on again, and the guy flips.

"He’s got a ball in his pocked, he tries to hit it straight at the referee, but fortunately he’s not very accurate. Then he chases the referee off court and he’s trying to slam the fence down. Three referees had to come on to finally get him off the court. It’s one of the funniest moments I’ve seen on a tennis court, although it got a little bit scary at the end.

“In the qualifying events you don’t have umpires so you have to call your own lines. Of course you get a lot of expletives, you get chaos. But I’ve never seen anything come close to that.”

Abedini’s attack of red mist led to his being defaulted at 6-0, 2-0 down. And while these scenes may have livened up the day in Antalya, there is a genuine issue with the lack of supervision and control at the hundreds of Futures events licensed by the International Tennis Federation every year.

In theory, they are supposed to provide a pathway to the higher levels. In practice, this pipeline often becomes clogged up by stubborn characters who won’t give up on their professional tennis dream, even though they are patently not good enough to earn a living from the game.

And this in turn can lead to corruption ​(although there is no suggestion of corruption in Abedini's case​)​.

“I’m sorry to say I think there’s a lot going on,” said the British player. “I’ve only ever seen direct proof of it once, and that guy was disciplined by the Tennis Integrity Unit. But you hear a lot of rumours. People turn to match-fixing out of desperation, because the prize-money is so poor at lower levels: you can win the tournament and you’re still barely breaking even.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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