Rafael Nadal is a fan of the new rule regarding on-site pre-tournament withdrawals that has been introduced at the Grand Slams and ATP tournaments.
The rule, brought to the majors this season, allows players who are knowingly unfit to receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money, if they pull out of the tournament before their opening match, allowing a lucky loser to take their spot and get the other half of the prize money.
The implementation of this new rule at the Slams has led to an Open Era-record eight lucky losers making it into the main draw at the French Open this week.
Also to discourage unfit players from contesting and contributing to uncompetitive opening matches, Grand Slams now have the right to hand out hefty fines – up to the amount of the first round prize money – if a player withdraws or performs below professional standards during a first round match.
Mischa Zverev was fined $45,000 at the Australian Open this year for what the tournament perceived as a poor performance in his first round against eventual semi-finalist Chung Hyeon. Zverev retired while down 2-6, 1-4 during that match. The German explained that he had early signs of a cold but got worse during his clash with Chung.
“They probably wanted to set a warning example and that ended up being me,” Zverev said at Roland Garros, as quoted by Insideout-tennis.de.
This week in Paris, fellow German Peter Gojowczyk also fell foul to the ‘First Round Performance’ rule, getting slapped with a €25,000 fine for retiring during his opener against Cameron Norrie. Gojowczyk, who played the final in Geneva last weekend and practised at Roland Garros on Sunday, retired from his match in Paris citing hip pain while trailing Norrie 1-6, 0-2.
Another German, another warning example – this time Peter Gojowczyk gets a massive fine. Said his hip/groin started hurting early in the first set vs Norrie: was a little tired in the Geneva finals but had a normal practice on Sunday. #RG18https://t.co/hWkOmctXAe
— René Denfeld (@Renestance) May 30, 2018
Nadal was asked after his second round victory over Guido Pella on Thursday about the new rules and the world No. 1 had only positive things to say.
“Being 100 per cent honest with you, I think is a good rule, because there is a lot of money on the Slams. For a lot of players, that they are inside the tournament of a Grand Slam and they have a physical problem in that week, just playing tournament helps a lot to save the year,” said Nadal.
“Because it looks very nice on the prize money, but then you have to pay tax, then you pay coaches, then you pay all the travels. And every year the expenses are high. So the amount of money that we are — is not that much comparing what the prize money says. I’m not talking for myself, obviously. But for a lot of players be inside a Grand Slam tournament is a big help for keep surviving, no?
“So I believe is fair that if they are inside and they have the chance to retire than keep winning the money is win to win, no? The tournament wins because there is no bad players or sick players playing, and for them, he deserve, because he made the right things to be there and he deserve that prize money so they still get it.”
Nadal made an on-site withdrawal ahead of the Acapulco tournament in February because he hadn’t yet recovered from his psoas injury and the Spaniard revealed that he chose not to take his half of the first-round prize money.
“At the end of the day, is the decision. Even when you’re retired, you can take the prize money or you cannot. That’s the position I was in Acapulco, I retired, I was inside the draw and they asked me if I wanted the prize money and I say no, because I believe it was fair enough that I don’t need that prize money so the player who was in has to win that prize money. He deserve, he was in, no?
“But is good that you have the decision, because then if you go inside and you retired, is not nice for nobody.”
The Grand Slam Rulebook states that a few things are taken into consideration by the referee in order to determine whether a player deserves to be fined under the ‘First Round Performance’ rule. Such factors include, but are not limited to the following:
- The player did not complete the match;
- The player did not compete in the 2-3 week period preceding each Grand Slam;
- The player retired from the last tournament he/she played before the Grand Slam Main Draw;
- The player was using a Protected or Special Ranking for entry;
- The player received a Code Violation for failure to use Best Efforts.
Argentine No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman agrees with Nadal that the new ‘On-site Withdrawal’ rule is positive but admits that it can be tricky when it comes to deciding whether someone deserves a fine or not under the ‘First Round Performance’ rule.
“I don’t know who is taking the decision after the matches, for example the Gojowczyk match, I didn’t see the match so I can’t talk about that. I’m not sure,” Schwartzman said on Thursday after his straight-sets win against Adam Pavlasek.
“I think it’s a good new rule for the players, because it’s a lot of money in these kind of tournaments.”
Asked if he found the ‘First Round Performance’ rule fair, even though it makes an assumption about a player’s intention, Schwartzman said: “Not sure, it depends on the match. If the player can’t play, of course it’s fair, but if maybe they had the injury inside the match, for sure no.”
— diego schwartzman (@dieschwartzman) May 31, 2018