Fernando Verdasco was the latest tennis star under fire after a clip went viral on social media of the Spaniard taunting a ball-boy during the recent Shenzhen Open.
Midway through the second set of his semi-final against Yoshihito Nishioka last month, the 34-year-old flailed his arms in the face of a ball-boy, berating the young lad who he deemed too slow when retrieving his towel.
The world No. 27 was cited as the prime example of how players mistreat children whose primary purpose is to pick up and deliver balls when needed.
When questioned on the incident, Verdasco was quick to defend his actions and also criticised the idea of making players fetch their own towels to wipe down sweat between points.
“Through history all players do things like that,” said Verdasco, who was defeated in three sets yesterday by Malek Jaziri at the Paris Masters.
“Obviously I didn’t mean to be like that. But I think with social media there are certain people who sometimes speak too much. I received many messages telling me to apologise. It looks like I did something really wrong to the guy, when it was my way of telling him that we have 24 seconds (between points).
“It was super humid and the kid was obviously not understanding English when I was asking for a towel. When you finish the point at the net, what you cannot do is go running every point to get your towel if you only have twenty seconds after a long rally.
“It looked like I hit the ball boy, I punch him in the face or I tell him something so rude, but I was just talking fast. Obviously my reaction with the arms was the thing that looked so bad, but it was never my intention to be rude or disrespectful.
“I love ball-boys, I always tell them thank you when they help me over fifteen years of my career and maybe one time when I did a bad gesture everyone was killing me.”
The Verdasco incident isn’t the first ball-boy altercation to have angered tennis fans recently, as rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas angrily yanked a new racquet away for the hands of a ball-boy, and Aryna Sabalenka dropped a water bottle to the floor knowing that a ball kid would have to pick it up.
Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic has also been criticised in the past for his dealings with ball-boys and court officials.
The ATP have taken action and are planning to relieve ball-boys of their towel duties and accelerate plans to install back-court towel-racks which will be utilised at next week’s Under 21 ATP ‘NextGen’ finals in Milan.
Verdasco has also commented on the ATP’s towel-rack plans revealing his reservations on the new system that will come into play.
“I think that the ball-boys are on the court to help the players. Taking out the ball-boys to give you the towel or give you the balls is something that is ridiculous. I think they are happy to help,” he said.
“Obviously the player is the one who has the pressure sometimes and maybe they have bad reactions, but I am sure that any of the players, men and women, when we have a bad reaction with the ball-boy, it’s never with a bad intention, it’s just because we have a lot of pressure, we have only 24 or 25 seconds.
“Sometimes I get warnings because I am not ready when I go to get the towel really fast to take my sweat off because it’s really humid conditions, like it was at the US Open or Shenzhen, and you need someone to help you to get your sweat off. I think that they are happy to help, and we are so happy that they help us, so I think that taking this away is something very bad.”