Mischa Zverev hit with major “performance” fine

MELBOURNE, Australia – The new International Tennis Federation rule for the Grand Slams followed the ATP Tour’s solution for handling first-round injury retirements.

If you were not fit to play, you could withdraw and still take home half your first-round loser’s money.

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In the Australian Open’s case, that’s half of a tidy $60,000 (AUD), or nearly $48,000 (US).

But if you chose to play, and the officials at the tournament determined you didn’t “perform to a professional standard”, they would assess you a “first-round performance fine”.

And, they warned in advance, it could be significant.

Well, the first fine has been handed out. And it went to veteran German lefty Mischa Zverev, Alexander’s older brother. 

And it is significant; $45,000 US – nearly all of the first-round loser’s purse he collected when he retired down 2-6, 1-4 to quarterfinalist Hyeon Chung.

Matter of interpretation

Here’s the problem, though: it seems as though Zverev was a borderline case.

On the other side of the ledger, Zverev has a pretty significant number of retirements on his playing record. The one against Chung was the 37th of his career. 

Then again, Zverev has been injured more than most, as well.

But here’s the thing. Zverev wasn’t out of the tournament after that defeat. He was still in the doubles with Paolo Lorenzi of Italy.

Zverev was barely moving during his first-round doubles match at the Australian Open. But that apparently was enough to pass muster with the powers that decide what a “professional performance” is. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

We watched a big chunk of that match. Zverev was barely moving.

He would serve and just walk a few steps and hope the first volley was within his reach.

The “performance” fine Zverev was assessed is for “not performing up to a professional standard” in the match. The players, under the microscope here, don’t even have to retire mid-match for this to kick in, from what we can see. But that is one factor.

If feels as though the information mentioned by the German tennis writer who Tweeted above was probably available, since you’d think Zverev would consult the tournament doctor. Or, they could ask him, look into it a little and determine whether he legitimately had no shot at finishing the match before he decided to carry on and play.

Perhaps they did. Perhaps.

Only one first-round retirement

There no doubt were some players who lost in the first round who were either sick (there was a ‘flu bug going around the tournament earlier in the week, we’re told) or taking painkillers. 

No other players retired in the first round of either the women’s or men’s singles draws. The only other singles retirement so far, through the quarterfinals, was Gilles Simon in the second set of his second-round match against Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain.

Zverev didn’t get dinged for walking through his doubles match, for which he and Lorenzi each earned $9,250 AUD ($7,400 US) for losing 6-2, 6-2 to the No. 1 seeds, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.

Paire’s underhanded tactics

And what of Benoit Paire, who served half-serves and underhand serves in a 6-4, 6-2 second-round loss to Dominic Inglot and Marcus Daniell, with partner Hugo Nys.

The “professional standard” of the serving, which often didn’t break 60 miles an hour and seemed to be due to an abdominal injury, was debatable.

But Paire finished the match. And the pair collected their prize money, splitting nearly $30,000 AUD for reaching the second round.

Color this fellow unimpressed.

Paire and Nys upset the No. 13 seeds in the first round. We’ll see if Paire’s effort in this one gets reviewed.

(Side point: Paire hates it when people serve underhand to him).

(Second side point: the Frenchmen won SIX games in this match, despite that)

If the Grand Slam Board was trying to make an example out of Zverev, to ensure that the first year of the experiment with the split prize money was seen to be effective, it may well have worked.

But in the case of Zverev, it seems they failed to consider that there’s a grey area between being unable to complete, and being compromised but still able to compete – even in a losing effort.

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