Withdrawals a bad look for Classic
Once again the big news at the beginning of the men’s ASB Classic wasn’t about the first round results or the prospect of thrilling match ups ahead, but on players pulling out.
Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Tomas Berdych have all withdrawn, robbing the event of three of its biggest stars.
But sadly this isn’t a one-off. Last year Kyle Edmund, Ryan Harrison, Guido Pella and Andrey Rublev all did the same.
In 2017 Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Robredo and Bautista Agut did it and in 2015 it was the case with David Ferrer, John Isner, Monfils, Robredo and Jack Sock.
It’s happened in the past and it will keep happening. The tournament’s strength, being the week before the Australian
Open, is also its weakness.
The fact is the Classic is a warmup event for the first grand slam of the year, just as Lyon is for Roland Garros, Eastbourne is for Wimbledon and Winstonsalem for the US Open.
For the past two years at Eastbourne six players pulled out before the tournament began each time.
There were six withdrawals at Lyon last year and seven at Winston-salem. So clearly the Classic isn’t alone with this problem.
It’s not a good look and the ATP fines players for pulling out of tournaments before they begin, if they don’t turn up.
So, Bautista Agut, who won the tournament in Doha at the weekend, flew to New Zealand and was at the venue yesterday, to avoid being fined.
This happens regularly when players pull out of the Classic, they’ll turn up after already making the announcement, spend a bit of time here, then take the short flight to Melbourne. So clearly the ATP’S deterrent isn’t working.
But how much can the players really be blamed? They’re looking to get a few matches under their belts before the Australian Open to sharpen up and they don’t want to burn themselves out before playing in Melbourne.
Classic tournament director Karl Budge has been going after the big four players for years, without any success. They’re just not interested in playing in the second week of the season, even if someone such as Andy Murray got offered huge money to come this year.
For them, money isn’t much of a factor and certainly not compared to the prize of winning another grand slam.
With Monfils, it’s the third time he’s pulled out of playing in Auckland and it’s easy to be critical of him for his latest withdrawal.
However, as was evident in his press conference, he was gutted about pulling out on Monday night. He knew his reputation had been tarnished in New Zealand because of previous no-shows and agreed to come to Auckland early and not play a tournament in week one, just so there wouldn’t be any problems this time.
Sadly there was, so he again won’t be playing, thanks to a thigh injury.
This wasn’t one of those injuries where he felt a slight twinge and was over cautious ahead of the Australian Open. Monfils was to have an MRI scan in Auckland yesterday and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play in Melbourne. So it is harsh to condemn him.
However, on the back of two other stars pulling out it does add to the disappointment.
So what can be done about no shows? Well, probably nothing. This will keep happening all around the world, there is no solution. It is – as they say – what it is.