Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

No hard feelings: Roger Federer accused of ‘tanking’ at his first Dubai tournament

Believe it or not, but Roger Federer, one of the greatest players to ever grace a tennis court, was once accused of “tanking” a match in Dubai.
Roger Federer in action at the Dubai Tennis Open tournament in 2002.  Rabih Moghrabi / AFP
Roger Federer in action at the Dubai Tennis Open tournament in 2002. Rabih Moghrabi / AFP

Believe it or not, but Roger Federer, one of the greatest players to ever grace a tennis court, was once accused of “tanking” a match in Dubai.

The 17-time grand slam winner, of course, had yet to win a major at the time, or even break in to the top 10. Federer was ranked No 14 when he made his first appearance at the Dubai Tennis Championships in 2002, arriving in the UAE on a Monday a few hours after winning the doubles title in Rotterdam.

The Swiss, then a 21-year-old, cruised to a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory over Adrian Voinea in the opening round on the Wednesday, but then looked well short of his best in a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to Rainer Schuettler in the second round 24 hours later.

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“I reckon that he played well below what we would expect,” a disappointed Jeff Chapman, who was tournament director, told the media as the organisers decided to withhold Federer’s US$12,450 (Dh45,700) prize money and appearance bonus.

A tape of the Schuettler match was sent to the ATP as evidence of Federer’s alleged lack of effort, but following an investigation, the ATP asked the organisers to pay up the prize money. The appearance money, substantially larger, was held back on the condition that Federer returns in 2003.

Federer, of course, was not very happy about the allegations and made his displeasure known on his return to Dubai 12 months later.

“For me it was quite a surprise that the tournament director attacked me,” Federer said after his victory in the opening round in 2003. “I’m not happy that he talked badly about me.

“I believe I’m the last guy who is not giving his best, so I’m back to prove him wrong, not for the money. For me it’s important that I stay professional and give my best so people don’t come up with comments like last year.”

Playing for his reputation, Federer cruised to the title without dropping a set. A dozen years later, he is still winning in Dubai, with this year’s success in the emirate his seventh tournament title.

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Updated: July 14, 2015 04:00 AM

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