French junior slaps opponent, one day after ATP tells players to expect tougher sanctions for misconduct – updated with apology
A match between two teens on the ITF junior circuit in Ghana turned into a brawl, exactly the kind of behaviour the Tours are determined to rule out
A match between two juniors at the ITF J5 Tennis Tournament in Accra, Ghana ended with the loser slapping the winner as they went up to the net for the customary post-match handshake.
Top seed Michael Kouame, a 15-year-old boy from France ranked 606 in the world junior rankings, lost his first-round match to Ghana’s Raphael Nii Ankrah, ranked No 1708, 6-2, 6-7, 7-6.
As the players walked to the net to shake hands, Kouame shook his opponent’s hand with his right hand and then slapped him with his left hand. A brawl resulted on court after the incident.
Kouame apologised via Instagram on Wednesday, saying that he regretted his actions after a “frustrating and difficult” match. He added that he had suffered verbal abuse from the public during the match, including insults directed at his mother, but that did not excuse his behaviour towards his opponent.
The teenager added that he was fully prepared to accept any sanction that might be headed his way, and he would be working on improving his on-court behaviour to reflect his real personality.
The footage, which was captured and posted online, sparked an outrage on social media.
ATP tells players it will toughen up on violations of the Code of Conduct
The incident came just a day after it emerged that the ATP Tour sent an email to players saying that they could expect much stricter punishments for their any misconduct on court.
The ATP Tour has been severely criticised for issuing only a suspended sanction on Alexander Zverev for his recent violent outburst in Acapulco, when he hit the umpire’s chair with his racquet several times. More recent cases of Nick Kyrgios and Jenson Brooksby throwing their rackets in frustration which caused ball kids to take evasive action also created a major outrage among fans and former players, with many calling for ATP to get stricter with players for such behaviour.
“Effective immediately and as we head into the clay court swing, the ATP officiating team has been directed to take a stricter stance in judging violations of the Code of Conduct. Additionally, we are also undertaking a review of the Code, as well as the disciplinary processes, to ensure that it provides appropriate and up-to-date penalties for serious violations and repeat offenders,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in the note, according to Reuters.
However, some players clearly don’t think fines are in order for breaking racquets. Frenchman Corentin Moutet said he feels stricter rules will result in “boring players”.