Refusal to clasp hands creates French Open flap | PostIndependent.com

Refusal to clasp hands creates French Open flap

Howard Fendrich
Associated Press
In this Wednesday, May 28, 2014 file photo France's Laurent Lokoli returns the ball to USA's Steve Johnson during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris, France. Wild card Lokoli refused a handshake from Martin Klizan of Slovakia after losing in five sets in the first round of the French Open Tuesday May 30, 2017. Lokoli said he snubbed Klizan because his opponent kept simulating injuries throughout their match, an attitude he said was disrespectful. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
AP | AP

PARIS — As anyone who ever has played or watched tennis — professional or recreational — knows, the post-match handshake at the net is as much a customary part of the sport as a racket, ball or serve. So when a player who lost at the French Open rebuffed his opponent’s attempt at the ritual Tuesday, it became the talk of the tournament.

On a day when No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka won, and a couple top-10 players unaccustomed to long stays at Roland Garros — Alexander Zverev in the men’s draw, Johanna Konta in the women’s — lost, the most buzzworthy development stemmed from a match between one guy who stands 50th in the world and another who is 285th.

After losing to Martin Klizan of Slovakia 7-6 (4), 6-3, 4-6, 0-6, 6-4 in the first round at Roland Garros, wild-card entry Laurent Lokoli of France skipped the usual sign of sportsmanship. Instead, he went to the sideline to pack up his things.

When Klizan approached, right arm extended, Lokoli dismissively waved him off with the back of a hand, motioning to stay away. Afterward, Lokoli said he wasn’t being a sore loser but rather that he didn’t want to shake because he thought Klizan was faking an injury during the match and was generally “disrespectful.”

“I just have (a) problem with his attitude,” Lokoli said, “because he wasn’t fair. That’s it.”

Klizan, who will face Murray in the second round, initially opened his news conference by being confrontational with reporters, repeatedly saying he had no comment and adding: “I don’t want you to make a big story about nothing.”

Eventually, he spoke about a problem with his left calf that he said forced him to pull out of other recent clay-court tournaments and made him consider withdrawing from the French Open. Later Tuesday, Klizan played in a doubles match that he and Joao Sousa of Portugal lost in straight sets.

Lokoli was angered by what he interpreted as gamesmanship, saying Klizan appeared to be dogging it in moments — such as the 6-0 fourth set — hampered by his leg: “I’m wondering if he’s going to retire or no, because now he’s not running anymore, you know?” And then, in Lokoli’s view, Klizan suddenly would be fine.

“I’m just saying that, you know, there are ways of doing things. If you’re injured, for instance, well, you’re injured. So what? Call the doctors,” Lokoli said. “This is what really bothered me.”

As video of their awkward exchange after the final point made the rounds on social media, even Murray took note.

“Obviously I saw a few videos of (Klizan’s) match today,” Murray said after his 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov. “It was obviously a pretty entertaining match.”

Murray, the runner-up in Paris last year, overcame some trouble in the second set, broken in 3 of 4 service games during one stretch. But he picked up his game in the last two sets, which the three-time major champion saw as a good sign after struggles this year.


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