Since yesterday, I have seen two players being accused of tanking their opening match at the Masters 1000 of Toronto, and I can’t stand there without saying anything, especially after having seen both matches, and knowing where both players come from.
Alexandr Dolgopolov: very little rest in his condition
The first player accused of tanking was Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who has lost 3-6 and 1-6 to Radek Stepanek. Shortly after the match, he has been accused by a Tennis.com writer of having tanked the match, causing the ire of many fans and analysts of the game. (Edit: The article has then been removed, without any apology issued by either Tennis.com or the writer.)
I have not read the piece, and don’t intend to. An accusatory article like that does not deserve a click from me. However, the writer did not take into account that Dolgopolov finished his match late on Sunday night, in Washington, due to the rain, and had only a day to get to Toronto and familiarise himself with the courts there, trying to savour his first career ATP500 title at the same time, before taking the court again.
Furthermore, most people who follow the game and Dolgo know that the Ukrainian has a blood disease that, among other things, can cause him problems when he travels and doesn’t have sufficient rest before playing after travelling, which is exactly what happened. A mere 24 hours doesn’t help a body recuperate enough to be competitive the next day, in a big stage, under scorching heat.
And so, despite visible efforts and with a frustration just as visible, Dolgopolov lost.
In no way, his loss could be attributed to tanking.
Juan Martín del Potro: changing continent and surface in one day
The other player who has been accused of tanking is Juan Martín del Potro. The new World no 8, recent Bronze medallist in London, left the British capital on Monday to get to Toronto, where there was many speculation as to his participation to the tournament.
Finally, he opted to play, and we saw, today, that having to change continent, and adapt to a whole new surface, all in the span of 48 hours, is not really ideal for anyone.
Delpo fought and tried, even twice took a break lead in the second set, and a mini break lead in the second set tiebreak, but to no avail. He ended up being defeated by the same Stepanek (a really lucky fellow), 6-4 7-6(5).
Within 24 hours, the Argentine had to adapt to the change of time zones, and adapt himself to playing on hard courts, he who, only three days ago, was playing for the Bronze medal on the Wimbledon grass. Nothing easy, even for a professional of his stature.
Furthermore, his Olympics have been gruelling and very tiresome, which showed in a lot of his strokes today on the Stadium Court of the Rogers Cup.
He tried, hard, but it was just impossible for him, today.
In his case too, it is impossible to accuse him of tanking, not in those circumstances.
After the match, the Tandil native admitted to being very tired, and has pulled out of the doubles, which he should have played with the same Stepanek.
All we can wish him is to get some rest and be ready to rock it next week in Cincinnati. In fact, it is all we can wish both him and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Then again, it would be nice of people to ponder the circumstances before making unfair and wrong accusations towards players, in the future.