LONDON – You couldn’t have a more perfect storm to gin up a story that was a fairly clearcut non-case of match fixing into something a lot bigger.
You’ve got London, with its tabloid culture and a betting salon on every second street corner.
You’ve got Feliciano Lopez, who is a former champion at Queen’s Club.
And, more pertinently this week, Lopez is partnering home-country tennis hero Andy Murray in his return to the ATP Tour in doubles.
(Whenever that is. Weather permitting. Stiff upper lip).
And, with Tuesday being a complete washout and no tennis to talk about, the story first reported in Diario AS, a Spanish sports daily got a lot of reaction.
There was the Daily Mail.
The Independent (Andy Murray’s TENNIS PARTNER!)
That’s just the first cut.
Lopez explains in press conference
On Wednesday, before the rain came, Lopez, 37 and having fallen outside the top 100 in singles, came back to defeat Marton Fucsovics 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. Following the win – which was a very good one for him – the Madrid Open tournament director addressed it.
He had a statement prepared before he came into the press conference, no doubt drafted by his attorneys.
And there were a LOT of cameras on hand.
Lopez happy to talk about it
As is usually the case in these things, the ATP Tour handler intervened to insist questions be limited to, you know, his singles win – or doubles with “Our Andy”.
But the British press kept asking. And Lopez appeared quite willing to answer any questions related to this. And so the ATP handler eventually just let the whole thing unfold. This is how it should be, but isn’t always.
Lopez remembered waaaaaaaay back – 15 or 16 years ago, he said – a match between himself and Jarkko Nieminen on Long Island that there had been some questions about.
The Spaniard retired, down 6-3, 1-1 in that match, with an injury. He said a British tabloid had gotten hold of it and tried to make it into something. But after hearing from Lopez’s lawyers, they quickly printed a retraction.
Foot injury vs. Mannarino
Here’s what Lopez said in his press conference:
Lopez mentioned the match in question at Wimbledon in 2017 took place the year he went deep in Stuttgart, won Queen’s – and then injured his foot in his singles match against Adrian Mannarino.
He and partner Lopez still tried to play the doubles, which is best-of-five set at Wimbledon.
This is not really privileged information. Anyone paying attention to the actual tennis would have figured this out.
So the “scoop” offered by former soccer player Carlos Aranda to his contacts about this match wasn’t exactly premium insider stuff.
As well, it’s not match-fixing to try to go out and play doubles, even if you’re not 100 per cent. It’s allowed (although you could certainly argue the logic of that). And you have a partner to think about. And it’s always possible that you can get away with a small injury if you only have to cover half the court.
At any rate, Lopez remains very happy to be here. He gets to play Juan Martin del Potro in the second round.
And he’s really excited to team up with Murray in doubles.
End story. He handled it like a pro.