Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the latest “controversy” surrounding everyone’s favourite men’s player.
Do you even know how comfortably Roger Federer is sitting on the ATP World throne?
You probably missed it, but we were given context to this last month; really it’s a news item so little, and one that came and went so quickly, that the odds are that you overlooked it.
A month ago, Julien Benneteau, who retired this year from the tour after quite a long and totally decent-to-at-times-great playing career, gave an interview to French Station RMC. So far so good, only Benneteau decided to spill the beans and give a bunch of juicy details on how men’s tennis really works behind the scenes.
In short: men’s tennis works by giving in to any and every Federer whim and request. That’s simplifying things of course, yes, but maybe not all that wrong either?
According to Benneteau, every request from King Roger, no matter how little or inconsequential, is taken as fact and given in to by the powers that be. The Frenchman gives plenty of examples, like how at the Australian Open they moved a Federer match against Jan-Lennard Struff to night time and forced Novak Djokovic to battle Gael Monfils in hellish conditions. The Frenchman says that what happens when Federer tells the ATP to jump, the governing body in turn asks how high.
Now, we’re not saying it’s all definitely proof of anything and we acknowledge that Benneteau is for the most part using anecdotes as indicative of broader patterns. This is, to put it mildly, not always the best methodology to draw any real conclusions but it can point the way toward a, let’s call it a trend. Because you dig a little deeper and see that over the past two Australian Opens, Federer has played only two matches under the sun while Rafael Nadal—himself no slouch—played six day matches out of 12. That maybe doesn’t mean anything but then again, maybe it does, you know?
There’s more. During their discussion, Benneteau and commentator Eric Salliot tackle the importance of Federer to the tour and how this affords him quite a fair bit of leeway. Remember earlier this year when the Swiss headed to Rotterdam to become the oldest No. 1 player in the history of men’s tennis? Well, he barely even made it to the Netherlands in the first place, because the event wasn’t on his schedule but Federer decided that he kinda maybe wanted to go, so he called event manager Richard Krajicek and asked him for more money…which Krajicek delivered by raising ticket prices and calling his bank to make up for the difference.
Who does this???? Federer does this.
If nothing else, this Benneteau interview is so fascinating because the ex-player is like an open book and so forthright with information that plenty of players likely know about but which never comes close to seeing the light of day. For that reason alone, we implore you dear radio and tv commentators, to please book Benneteau again before long.
The Frenchman has since taken to Twitter to clarify that this wasn’t anything specific against the great Roger. We believe him too. It’s not because the Frenchman holds a grudge over Federer over their playing days either; a 2-6 head-to-head record against Roger is, all things considered, pretty great for two players of their respective statures.
1)Juste pour clarifier les choses , je dis juste qu’il faut éviter au maximum les conflits d’intérêt afin de préserver une certaine équité sportive , il n’y a rien de personnel envers Roger Federer car je suis le premier à dire que c’est le plus grand…
— julien benneteau (@julienbenneteau) November 13, 2018
We have no reason to doubt what he’s saying, and that what he’s really denouncing is the fact that men’s tennis treats the Swiss different from others. It’s not really Benneteau’s fault if it’s more rampant with Federer, right?
There’s long been a belief that men’s tennis is divided into the haves and have-nots. This interview only serves to reinforce this belief, but also adds some nuance to the debate: because in men’s tennis, there are the haves, the have-nots and then there is also Federer.
King Roger lords over all.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG