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London Tennis • Feliciano Wins And Gets Grilled • Del Po Beats Denis Shapovalov • Rain Halts Play

Spectators watch Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka during his round 32 match against Britain’s Dan Evans at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen’s Club in London, Britain, 19 June 2019. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER



By Alix Ramsay


Derek is not happy. He had been planning on a quiet afternoon in his field, listening on his radio to coverage of Andy Murray’s return to the courts and phoning in the odd weather report to the office. The plan was to get home in time to catch a bit of the tennis – and, if truth be told, to gaze fondly on Sue Barker – on the telly. Derek likes tennis. He like Sue even more.


We told you about Derek yesterday. He is the bloke in the welly boots who works for the Met Office. He provides them with riveting updates on the weather from his vantage point in a field outside Exeter: “Yes, it’s still raining. Speak to you later.” It may not be the most exciting job in the world but it has its advantages. Like being able to listen to the radio while you’re doing it.


And after the unending rain on Tuesday, it did seem as if the clouds were now officially empty and Derek would have an easy day. Alas, no. It heaved it down for large parts of Wednesday leaving our hero with nothing but talk of the Tory leadership race on the radio (an insomniac’s guide) and no chance to make it home in time for a cup of tea and a bit of Sue. Derek really isn’t very happy.


He is not alone in this, mind you. The poor souls trying to shoehorn an extra day and a bit’s worth of schedule into Thursday’s order of play at the Fever-Tree Championships cannot be having much fun either (“Do you think Milos might be persuaded to play in the NCP car park down the road? No? Oh well, it was just a thought…”). And then there is Feliciano Lopez.


The lovely Feli was one of the lucky ones – he managed to play a full match on Wednesday and win it, too. He beat Marton Fucsovics 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 but while, ordinarily, that might be a cause for celebration, Feli had other things on his mind.

Spain's Feliciano Lopez during his round 32 match against Marton Fucsovics of Hungary at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen's Club in London, Britain, 19 June 2019.  EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

He and his regular doubles partner, Marc Lopez, had been named in the Spanish press as being involved in an alleged match fixing incident at Wimbledon two years ago. In 2017, Lopez and Lopez lost in the first round to Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith having taken the first set.


So when Feli came to talk to the press after his Queen’s Club win, he came with a prepared statement.


“Following reports in media that mentioned my name and my partner, Marc Lopez, I feel it is still important to come to you and absolutely deny any link with events described in relation to the allegations of match fixing,” he began.


“Unfortunately, all tennis players are public figures and exposed to having our good name used beyond our control. For that reason, I will do everything within my power to defend myself against any such false accusations.


“Marc and I had immediately contacted the TIU [Tennis Integrity Unit] to fully cooperate, and they confirmed that there had been no investigation about that match at Wimbledon 2017. We have full faith in the TIU and the role they play protecting our sport.


“I have always believed in the values of fair play. It has been the case during my long career and I stand for the integrity of the game, which is so important. I am now focused on giving my best, as always, and play with 100 per cent focus at Queen’s.


“For now, these are the only comments I wish to make on the matter.”


Of course, he did comment further on the matter – he had no choice because he was being asked questions about it by the assembled press pack. The doubles match in question came the day after Feli had been forced to retire in his singles match against Adrian Mannarino. It had been a long grass court season already for the Spaniard and, as he played one more singles match, he hurt his foot.


“That doubles that year, I [had] won Queen’s, I lose the final in Stuttgart the week before Queen’s,” Feli explained. “I was playing against Mannarino [at Wimbledon] and I injured my foot, and I had to retire in that match.


“And then we tried to play doubles. We tried to do our best, and we ended up losing the match. That’s all.”


He was taking all of this as calmly as he could. Once before, back in 2003, a newspaper had made allegations about his withdrawal, mid-match, against Jarkko Nieminen in Long Island. Those were the days before the TIU so Feli went straight to his lawyers and the paper had to publish an apology. He has been through this particular mill before and, it cannot be stated clearly enough, he emerged with his character and his reputation unsullied.


“These gamblers, they know,” he said, “they have information that you maybe are not 100 per cent or that you have an issue, an injury, whatever, and they put a lot of money on your name. That’s an issue that we have to solve.”


On a happier note, the next issue Feli has to solve is big Delpo who walloped Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 6-4. A clean and neat break of serve in each set, 11 aces served and not a break point faced – it was a decent start for the big man from Tandil.


Stan Wawrinka had a decent start, too, as he outplayed Dan Evans 6-3, 6-4. This was supposed to be a battle of the backhands: Dan’s slice vs Stan’s topspin thunderbolt. And given the weather conditions, Stan’s thunderbolt won hands down. Dan didn’t play badly but Stan played very, very well.


And wouldn’t you just know it: the bleedin’ British weather relented just long enough for Dan to get stuffed and Kyle Edmund to end up in a corner against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Quiet Kyle was a set down and 3-3, 30-30 when the heavens opened for the last time on Wednesday night. The Fever-Tree peeps knew they were beaten –it was not only damp but dark – and so everything was abandoned for the night.


But there is still much to look forward to on Thursday with the return of Andy Murray, partnered by Feli, in the doubles. Weather permitting, of course. Over to you, then, Derek. It all depends on you…

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro serves to Canada's Denis Shapovalov during their round 32 match at the Fever Tree Championship at Queen's Club in London, Britain, 19 June 2019. The tournament runs from 17th June till 23 June 2019. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER

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