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 Darko Grncarov’s too good to be true story.
Were you ever fans of HBO’s seminal television series The Wire?
Bear with us as we’re taking a little detour to arrive but we’ll get there… But yes The Wire anyone? Season five of this series starts with a wonderful scene where two detectives bring a couple of youngsters in for an interrogation and make them believe that the office Xerox machine is a lie detector. The scene ends when one detective tells the other, smiling, “The bigger the lie, the harder they believe.”
What’s the link between The Wire and tennis? Well we in tennis got our collective Xerox machine last month and we fell for it. Oh boy did we fall for it, hook, line and sinker.
Darko Grncarov, have you heard the name? Grncarov is a nobody, at least insofar as the average person is: a somebody to a small number of person close to us, and a relative unknown or nobody to others around the world. What we’re saying is that Grncarov is no Federer, he is a nobody in reality but in his reality, and in the reality he sold us for a little while during the Australian Open, Grncarov was a pretty big deal.
Ben Rothenberg published the details in a cover story for Slate last week, explaining that the young Grncarov had conned the entire world into, among other things, giving him an interview with BBC Radio.
Grncarov’s story starts in December 2014 when a news website from his hometown in Macedonia wrote about his tennis exploits at a tournament he had supposedly competed in. The 20-year-old even had his time on Macedonian TV, look here’s the footage of his interview.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and with us having blown his cover above this is even more obvious, but the first thing that strikes us in the video is how awful of a tennis player Grncarov is. We’re supposed to believe he’s a promising and aspiring pro? The young man’s profile in Europe grew over time with more tales of an all-conquering hero winning and competing at various stops.
We’re jumping ahead a few steps but eventually local media caught on to the hoax and soured on him.
This is when the Internet took the baton and ran with it. Macedonia, you might recall, is the land of fake news and boy did they deliver for one of their own. Rothenberg explains discovering about 200 or so Twitter accounts building up buzz surrounding their guy. They mentioned things like the man’s crush on Nicole Scherzinger (lolz), his $1.5-million fortune (!!!) and their wish for folks from The Ellen DeGeneres Show to invite Grncarov on their show.
Why would Ellen might have accepted this? Well it’s due to Team Grncarov’s tour de force: the supposed tennis player, they said, had suffered a stroke and gone into a coma and—get this—he was now starting his comeback. BOOM!
This was last July and Grncarov’s profile grew exponentially when he 1) started praising the Williams sisters and 2) expressed his political views. You see, the man would never dare play on Margaret Court Arena if and when he had the chance in his comeback, even if it’s a match against none other than Novak Djokovic, Grncarov wouldn’t play, no sir. As he told BBC Radio in that interview, “I’m just going to forfeit the match, and that’s all,” he said. “Even if it means I’m never going to be playing the tournament, I don’t care.” Surely even sports betting wouldn’t have seen that comment coming.
Of course, he wouldn’t care: there’s not a chance that Grncarov would ever be in this situation. Have you seen him play in that clip above?
Since the Australian Open in January, the 20-year-old has decided to deactivate and delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts, seemingly after cutting short a planned interview with Rothenberg when the journalist decided to ask a few too many pointed questions about his supposed story.
The moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. If it reads as too crazy to be believable, then it could be because it is. Of course, we don’t know that every detail in Grncarov’s story is false, it’s only the fact that it reads all as so neatly tied together makes us doubt its veracity. He very well could have suffered a stroke and gone into a coma but we feel pretty confident in saying that his comeback to pro tennis is basically as viable and non-existent as ours.
But it’s not just that: you need to do your homework as well. If and when you stumble upon a story that reads as too crazy to be believable, then go see if everything checks out. Go see Grncarov’s purported ITF page, which only has one sanctioned match, a walkover in Egypt. Then, maybe you’ll see how ridiculous it is that Grncarov was followed by Serena Williams, shouted out by Martina Navratilova, interviewed on BBC Radio and had reports about him published in Spain, India, Serbia, Tennis World, Japan, Britain’s Metro and France.
Verify your story, only instead Twitter went and gave him the verified blue checkmark. Oops.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG