Shining a Light on Monfils-Fognini-Gate
PARIS -- Let's not go overboard about this and call it a scandal, as some people are doing. It wasn't about favoritism to the home country. And most of all, it didn't change the outcome in any way.
But when French Open officials allowed the match between Frenchman Gael Monfils and Italian Fabio Fognini to continue 20 minutes into the darkness Wednesday night all the way until a few minutes to 10 p.m. despite Fognini's complaints, it was simple incompetence by officials.
Nothing malicious. Just no common sense. And it was ridiculous watching two players trying to see a ball in the dark.
I can tell you this: At least 20 minutes earlier, I was watching big American John Isner serve in the growing darkness, and his opponent was not using his racquet to return serve so much as to defend himself. That match was suspended. Andy Murray's match was suspended.
But the Monfils match went on, and as I walked to that court, a fan ran up and asked me if they have lights in the stadium.
Here's what happened: Monfils won the first two sets and Fognini the next two. It was 4-all in the fifth when Fognini asked that they stop play. Monfils wanted to continue, even though his legs were cramping. The crowd whistled and booed Fognini, wanting the match to go on. No fan wants to spend hours watching a match only to have it stopped at 4-all in the 5th set.
Even if they can't actually see it anymore.
Officials listened too much to the crowd, sided with Monfils (on right in above photo; Fognini is on left, both discussing things with a tournament official), and said to continue play.
A scandal? French officials taking the French side?
Remember: Three days earlier, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who had played Sunday in Nice, asked French officials if he could play his first round here a day late. French officials declined the French player's request. Gasquet would take a two-set lead on Andy Murray, then run out of legs, panic and suffer a mental and physical meltdown. He lost, and did not complain about French officials.
Anyway, Fognini argued to stop the match for so long, as it continued to get darker, that he was penalized a point.
Scandal! No. He held serve anyway. Serving in the dark is a huge advantage.
Monfils then served and had match points against him. But he held serve anyway.
And the match was halted at 5-all.
Officials should not be listening to the crowd. If it's dark on one court, it's dark on another. The match should have been stopped. But nothing sinister. No light, but no harm, no foul.
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