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AFP
October 11, 2018

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Tennis rallies round ball kids after Verdasco spat

SHANGHAI: Fernando Verdasco’s treatment of a ball boy who failed to bring him his sweaty towel fast enough has thrust tennis players’ attitudes towards the child volunteers into the spotlight, and could prompt changes.

The 34-year-old Spaniard has not commented on the incident, when he aggressively gesticulated at a ball boy to hurry up during last month’s Shenzhen Open in China.The footage went viral on social media and saw Verdasco heavily criticised.

Judy Murray, the former British Fed Cup captain and mother of three-time Grand Slam winner Andy, tweeted: “What about a rule that makes players get their own towels?”Others, while condemning Verdasco’s behaviour, pointed out that he is by no means the first tennis player to treat a ball kid harshly. Last week at the China Open, the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka was caught in footage shaking an empty bottle in the apparent direction of a ball boy, before tossing it on the floor.

At this week’s Shanghai Masters, Roger Federer said tennis sets the standard for many sports when it comes to respectful behaviour — and that must extend to the treatment of ball boys and girls. But Federer, 37, the defending champion in Shanghai, pointed out that emotions run high in the heat of a match and that tennis is more intense now than in the past.

In 2015 Novak Djokovic, now a 14-time Grand Slam winner, apologised to a Wimbledon ball girl after he screamed in her direction, leaving her looking shaken. The Verdasco incident in particular highlighted the issue of ball kids being asked to handle sweaty and snotty towels for players, many of whom like to wipe their faces after each point. Federer said that players are under pressure not to hold games, up so it is quicker for the ball boy to hand them the towel rather than fetch it themselves.

“The show’s got to (keep) moving on. So all this stuff, it’s quite hectic to be quite honest, even though it seems like we have a lot of time,” he said on Tuesday.

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