Boris Becker was accused by his opponent of intimidation after losing in the third round of the French Open yesterday to a qualifier, Adrian Voinea, who was not even considered for the Romanian Davis Cup team which won a relegation play-off against Britain last year.
"Before the match, I thought Becker was the best, as a person and as a tennis player, but now I feel shame for him," Voinea said after defeating the three-times Wimbledon champion, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Voinea, aged 20 and ranked No 128 in the world, charged the third-seeded Becker with glaring at him, speaking to him nastily in German, and making a spitting gesture during the concluding two sets of their match, which had carried over from the previous night.
The Romanian's words echoed the uncomplimentary views of several players at Wimbledon last summer, when Becker was fined $1,000 for receiving medical treatment during a toilet break in his match against Javier Frana, and was accused of gamesmanship by both Andrei Medvedev and Christian Bergstrom.
On an acrimonious wet weekend at Stade Roland Garros, Voinea and Becker did find common ground in an angry condemnation of the tournament officials for starting their match at 7.28pm on Saturday and bringing them off the court at 8.45pm after the Romanian had won the opening two sets.
"If I had won today, they actually would have cheated my opponent," said Becker, who appeared to have saved most of his big points for the interview room. "We'd been waiting for four hours, when it was just drizzling, and we asked why we were not playing. Then suddenly, when we expected to go home, they called us to play, when it was still drizzling and it was getting dark.
"The court hadn't even been covered for the past three or four hours, so after the warm-up the yellow balls were all of a sudden brown. You couldn't call that a tennis contest. And then the supervisor comes to the court and says to the umpire, 'Now we stop'.
"I asked him, 'What's the difference now to 45 minutes ago? It's still raining, it's still dark'. My opponent asked if they had stopped playing on the other courts, and he was told, 'Yes'. It wasn't true. They were playing on all the courts. And he was clearly in a situation where he would have won much easier than today."
The referee, Gilbert Ysand, explained that it was decided not to start any more sets because "we knew from the radar that a big cloud was coming". Matches in which a set was already in progress were allowed to continue until 9.05pm.
It remains a mystery why Becker and Voinea, in common with other frustrated competitors, were kept in the locker room on Saturday afternoon while Michael Stich and Arnaud Boetsch spent three and a half hours playing five sets in the rain.
Jim Courier, champion in 1991 and 1992, followed Becker, Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg out of the tournament, defeated by the 19-year-old Spainard, Alberto Costas, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Boetsch was the last of the French contenders in the men's singles, and the host nation's disappointment was compounded yesterday by Mary Pierce's elimination in the fourth round of the women's event by Iva Majoli, of Croatia, 6-2, 6-3.
Pierce was unable to subdue Majoli with the powerful but hit-or-miss style with which she won the Australian Open title in January. She was largely outplayed by the 17-year-old.
In fairness to Pierce, she came into the tournament nursing a cold and had to contend with a strained groin yesterday. She took an injury time- out after the first set, and Majoli invited a ball-boy to play a few shots to pass the time and amuse the crowd.
The American Chanda Rubin, who profited on Saturday from the latest "choke" by Jana Novotna - 5-0, 40-0, nine match points - advanced to a quarter-final against top seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario with a three-set win over Ai Sugiyama.Reuse content