Terence Atmane apologizes for on-court outburst but French Open owes fans an apology

In the first round of the French Open, Terence Atmane lost his cool and accidentally his a fan with a ball.
Terence Atmane's anger led to fan being hit by a tennis ball
Terence Atmane's anger led to fan being hit by a tennis ball / Dan Istitene/GettyImages

Terence Atmane, a player who might have never heard of, got away with something Novak Djokovic likely never would have in the first round of the French Open. During a five-set match that Atmane eventually lost, he became frustrated with his play and struck a ball in anger. The ball sped toward a fan who could not move out of the way and got struck in the leg.

During the 2020 US Open, Djokovic struck a ball that was not in play out of anger. The ball accidentally hit a linesperson, and Djokovic was disqualified. This is not an argument about Djokovic not being disqualified; he acted out of anger and should have been. But tennis also needs to be fair.

Atmane hit a ball out of anger that hit a fan. Officials reviewed the issue and spoke with the fan, and due to the fan not being injured, Atmane was given a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. The problem is that the French player- Atmane being French might be a key here - should have been disqualified just as Djokovic was at the US Open four years prior.

French Open owes tennis fans an apology for Terence Atmane decision

According to Section T, Article III of the ITF Grand Slam handbook, a player can be given a point penalty and not disqualified and had the fan claim to be hurt, Atmane probably would have been. In most cases, the player is disqualified but officials chose to go a different route with Atmane.

What if Atmane had not been French? Roland Garros is, of course, played in Paris. If Djokovic had been the player who struck the fan with the ball, would he have been disqualified? He should have been. Just as Atmane should have been.

Atmane did post an apology on Instagram on Tuesday (two days after the incident, and he might have waited until he noticed so much negative reaction to his action), and, in part, he wrote, "This gesture was not intentional. Please forgive me for my emotional outburst."

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Atmane also partly blamed a broken string on the ball going uncontrollably toward a fan. That is rather lame, though. Had Atmane controlled his anger a bit more, the whole incident would not have occurred.

Tennis needs to do a better job of streamlining discipline. If Djokovic was disqualified, Atmane should have been. The officials should not have partly based their decision on whether the fan was injured. They could have been injured, but the action that caused the situation was the same. The French Open owes the specific fan an apology and tennis fans everywhere a commitment to making better decisions in the future.

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