Wimbledon stars came under fire yesterday for their treatment of ballboys after Rafael Nadal was derided for handing rubbish to one youngster to deposit in a bin right beside him.
Earlier in the tournament, French player Adrian Mannarino was fined $9,000 for shoulder-barging a ballboy.
Nadal, comfortably one of the most popular players on the tour, was filmed during his five-set defeat to Gilles Muller on Monday asking a ballboy to drop a drinks lid into the courtside litter bin — which was right next to his chair.
The youngster performed the task uncomplainingly but that didn’t prevent the online community taking offence on his behalf.
“Ah seriously.. NADAL THE BIN IS RIGHT BESIDE YOU..PUT YOUR OWN LITTER INTO IT,” tweeted one viewer.
Another fumed: “What a lazy lad! Big fan Rafa, but you can’t reach for the bin which is just two inches away from you?”
Mannarino, meanwhile, was docked a point for “unsportsmanlike conduct” for shoulder-barging a ballboy in his second-round victory over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita.
“Do you think I’m not behaving well with the ballboys?,” asked the 29-year-old Frenchman, ranked at 51 in the world.
“Something wrong happened during the second match, but it was not on purpose. I didn’t see the ballboy, the ballboy didn’t see me, so I think everyone made such a big deal out of nothing.
“I never had any problem with any ballboys before. I’m always trying to be nice with them.”
World number two Novak Djokovic admitted players could be more sensitive in their attitude to the ballboys and ballgirls.
“Players can be at times harsh but you have to understand the players’ point of view, as well,” said the three-time champion after knocking out Mannarino yesterday.
“Obviously things are happening when you don’t have much time to recover from one point to another. Sometimes those four, five seconds, somebody brings a towel, tosses the ball, can cause trouble for you.
“You can get a time violation, which happened many times in the past.
“But they’re a very important part of tennis.”
There are around 250 ballboys and ballgirls on duty at Wimbledon over the two-week tournament.
They have an average age of 15 and are drawn from local schools.
While one or two wilted in the first week when temperatures shot up to 30 degrees Celsius, others have been in the firing line.
Last Friday, a ballboy was accidentally hit in the face by a ball hit by Muller during his match against Aljaz Bedene. Muller went to the net to apologise.
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