Bad For The Sport
At its best, sport inspires. For a country like Australia, agonizing over perhaps the worst natural disaster in its history with massive flooding, inspiration is in short supply these days.
So the arrival of the Australian Open came at, perhaps, a helpful time. Take the minds of folks off the problems. Before the tournament even started, Roger Federer organized a charity benefit that raised $2 million for flood victims.
All good. And good for tennis.
Then, however, came Tuesday's match between Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic. They've had delicious matches before, and this one looked like it was going to be a good one, too. For almost four sets.
Tipsarevic, one of the most colorful players on tour, was up two sets to one, but then blew two chances to serve out the match in the fourth set, including two match points.
So, basically, he gave up. Threw the match. Waved the white flag.
He barely tried in the fourth set tiebreak, smashing the ball all over the court, then in the fifth set, was in pure pout and won only five points while losing the fifth set 6-0 and the match. On the final points, with Verdasco serving, Tipsarevic didn't even try, just pointing at the ball as Verdasco's "aces" flew by.
Tired? Sure he was. But it wasn't particularly hot, and Tipsarevic didn't look particularly tired. He had just had enough. So he threw in the towel. No mas.
"I don't want people to get the wrong impression," Tipsarevic told reporters afterwards. "I didn't tank. I didn't lose on purpose. I didn't have a mental meltdown. I was just dead in the legs."
Sorry pal, ain't buying it. Verdasco, meanwhile, chose the diplomatic route when asked if he thought Tipsarevic was trying in the final set.
"This is a question that he must answer, not me," said Verdasco.
It was a disgrace, and if the ATP had any guts, it would suspend Tipsarevic. This is an industry, don't forget, that not too long ago was being questioned in relation to various match fixing allegations.
In 2007, Nikolai Davydenko was fined $2,000 (wow) for showing a "lack of best effort" during a loss to Martin Cilic. Later that year, ATP investigated one of his matches when he pulled out against a much-lower ranked Argentine opponent in the third set, and betting records showed an unusually high amount of money had been wagered on Davydenko's opponent.
So this is a sport that should be super-sensitive to any suggestion its athletes aren't giving their best. Tipsarevic certainly was not.