Tsitsipas family under fire for alleged wildcard misuse
As one of the most respected tennis players on the circuit at present, Stefanos Tsitsipas has a lot of fans. His aggressive and ambitious game was on show again recently, when he lost to Rafa Nadal in an absorbing Barcelona Open title match. The Greek missed out after a wonderful performance, with Nadal saving a match point to win the match and to take the victory in three sets.
With over three and a half hours of play, much talk was about the quality of the match. Soon, though, more discussions started to swirl around the Tsitsipas name – and, in this case, it was to do with his family. Stefanos’s younger brother, Petros, is also a tennis player – and, if it is to be believed, a quality young talent. However, there was much consternation about the use of the wildcard system to land Stefanos better positions at major events in the future.
The intriguing part of the discussion stems from the fact that Stefanos, the World No.5, could end up competing in the same tournaments as his brother. The fact his brother currently ranks at the 970th player on the ranking list shows the disparity. The 20-year-old was entered into the Open 13 ATP tournament draw in Marseille last month, granted a wildcard to take part. However, his dream draw seen him paired up with World No. 52, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The match lasted just 45 minutes, as Fokina won 6-0, 6-2.
Consternation began, though, at the fact that Fokina – despite being ranked among the worst service games in the last competitive year – managed to see just three return points from the younger Greek. Players and fans of the sport began to wonder: was it the name and success of his brother that propelled the 970th ranked player so high?
Is the wild card system a problem for tennis?
While the system has produced shock results and even major event winners in the past, some believe the wildcard system is open to abuse. The problem mostly stems from nepotism, with the accusation thrown at other players in the past. For example, did you know that Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic has a brother who plays tennis? His name is Marko, and his highest career ranking was 571st.
However, the 29-year-old has taken part in events all across the ATP tournament, gaining wildcard entry into eight events which would normally be far beyond his ability. He lost all eight tournaments in his first match. Tsitsipas is the latest top pro to use his fame and his success to assist in a family member gaining a larger profile than their sporting quality arguably deserves.
Of course, this is not a new issue – these issues have surrounded tennis, and wider sport, for many years now. It’s a shame, because many young wildcard stories exist of players being given the chance to go further than they ever could have on their own.
Sadly, stories such as this show that there is much work to be done to help create a fairer wildcard program.