The ATP´s Biggest Divas?



by PHILIP MARE

The ATP´s Biggest Divas?

When the ATP 1000 event in Rome got underway, both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic said they wanted to steer clear of controversy. A week after making headlines for their scathing comments about the courts in Madrid, both men said they just wanted to focus on their tennis.

Well, on Sunday night they both got what they didn't want - drama. After a three-hour rain delay following the women's final, the court was prepared and both men were asked to prepare for their clash. They refused. Though it's unclear exactly what happened, reports suggest that both men said they wouldn't play because they didn't like the conditions.

They also said that if conditions aren't perfect tomorrow, they wouldn't play the final at all. They don't want to miss preparation for the French Open, they said. The fans at the Foro Italico responded by throwing bottles and other garbage onto the courts.

While conditions were certainly far from perfect on Sunday night, players are routinely required to play in much worse circumstances. The French Open in particular is notorious for making players contest their matches on wet courts when the light has all but gone.

So were Nadal and Djokovic within their rights to refuse to go on? It's debatable, especially in light of recent events. Last week, both Nadal and Djokovic threatened to boycott Madrid if the courts did not meet their approval next year.

The tournament director said that they will never cater an event for particular players, and Serena Williams publicly criticized such comments. Nadal, in particular, has been vocal about various things he dislikes about the ATP Tour.

He has said the ranking system needs to change, and that the calender is too long. He has also demanded a longer off-season, and for fewer events to be played on hard courts. Nadal even threatened to go on strike if his demands about the calender length were not met.

Apocryphal stories about demanding players are rife in professional tennis, especially on the women's Tour, but with Sunday's events one cannot help but wonder: are Djokovic and Nadal the biggest divas in the men's game? It might be unfair to pick on them, since they are certainly the most visible players.

Everything they say gets over-analyzed and debated, while similar comments by lower ranked players are ignored. There is also an argument to be made about a lack of player rights in tennis. Still, refusing to go onto a court that is clearly in a playable condition is quite serious, and time will tell what kind of fallout this move has.