Rafael Nadal insisted on Saturday that tennis chiefs were wrong to wait three days before kicking controversial Italian Fabio Fognini out of the US Open for a vile, sexist tirade at a female umpire.
The 30-year-old Fognini aimed two ugly misogynistic blasts at umpire Louise Engzell as he crashed to defeat in a first-round singles match against fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia on Wednesday.
However, Fognini, with compatriot Simone Bolelli, won two rounds of men’s doubles on Thursday and Friday before the Grand Slam board defaulted him on Saturday. Fognini, the world No 26, had already been fined $24,000 for the incident.
Tennis chiefs explained the delay in making a decision on a possible suspension on having to wait for a translation of the player’s brief remarks.
“It takes four days for that translation? I don’t think so. Easy to find,” said world No 1 Nadal after making the fourth round on Saturday. “Of course it is not a positive thing. Of course if you are not doing the right things on the court, of course you need to be in some way affected, no?” added the Spaniard.
“But at the same time is true that things can be made to happen earlier because I believe that he played two doubles matches. If they want to suspend him, will be much better to do it immediately, not three days later or four days later, because then he was here playing for a few days. Now he is out already winning two matches. I think it is not the ideal situation. Probably something that will go immediately to check it, and if he deserve a suspension, he takes it, and if he don’t deserve, don’t take it.”
A tournament statement said that Fognini had been provisionally suspended. As a result, his and Bolelli’s third-round doubles opponents, Nicholas Monroe and John-Patrick Smith, were given a walkover into the quarter-finals.
“Pursuant to the Grand Slam Code of Conduct, Fabio Fognini is hereby provisionally suspended from further participation in the US Open pending a final determination whether a major offense has been committed during his first round singles match,” said the statement.
“The provisional suspension is with immediate effect and, therefore, Mr Fognini has been withdrawn from his upcoming doubles match.”
Fognini has a controversial history over his on-court behavior and was handed a record fine of $27,500 at Wimbledon in 2014.
“I apologise to the fans, to the referee for what happened,” he wrote in Italian on Twitter. “It was just a very bad day, but it did not forgive my behavior in the match. Although I’m a hot-head (and though I’ve been right in most circumstances) I was wrong. But in the end it’s only a tennis match.”
India’s Rohan Bopanna, who had lost in the second round of the doubles to the Italian pair alongside partner Pablo Cuevas, accused the organisers of dithering.
“I wanted them to play the whole tournament. If US Open is letting them play 2 rounds. Let them play whole thing and then make a decision,” Bopanna tweeted. “If a player is under investigation, As a tournament you do not schedule his match till a decision has been taken.”
He added: “It’s a career of all the individuals who are involved. Which US Open clearly do not care about.”