Not many people got the chance to watch Julien Benneteau play Tobias Kamke today. It was on court 1 and didn’t get any coverage from ESPN 2 or the Tennis Channel. You could have watched it online or on directv. I watched the final 4 sets of this match, and I have a very strong opinion on what I saw.
First off, the tennis was fantastic most of the time. For the first three sets, Benneteau and Kamke were trading blows from the baseline with incredible power. They both hit very flat balls, and so this sometimes leads to mistakes. But the two were playing long rallies every point, with each player trying to gain the offensive in the points. Their timing was on, and the level was high.
Benneteau won the first two sets 7-6(9) 7-5. Only one break of serve and an hour and 52 minutes later, things looked good for Benny. He had the crowd behind him with some great shotmaking, and the third set was just as tight. Kamke never gave up, and kept fighting the whole way. He squandered a set point when he served for it at 5-4, but broke Benneteau right back in the next game. On the third set point he converted, as the crowd got very silent.
Still, all things pointed toward a fantastic match.
However, after losing his serve in the first game of the fourth set, Benneteau appeared to have a left thigh injury. It could have been cramps, it could have been anything. He took an injury timeout to get his thigh massaged, his first questionable decision. After a length delay, Benneteau looked okay, but Kamke grinded out a hold of serve to consolidate the break. Down 0-2, Benneteau started to throw away the set. He didn’t move for balls and hit every ball about as hard as he could. Kamke didn’t lose focus and won the set 6-0. The tennis was terrible, a D3 player could have beaten Benneteau.
Going into the fifth set, all the momentum was with Kamke. Benneteau looked down and out. The crowd was dead. All of a sudden, after going down a break, Benneteau started flying around the court. His movement looked 100%, magically recovering from his injury. He started to get very animated and got the crowd back. They were rowdy, and they were loud. Benneteau hit some incredible shots and won the match 6-4 in the fifth.
The Big Question: Is it Okay?
Personally, I hate it when players do this. They play possum to save energy for later in the match. If you’re going to take an injury timeout, you sure as hell better have an injury. Novak Djokovic has been a culprit of this in the past. It’s a cheap tactic, and all it does is make the opponent look bad. By not moving and playing poorly, it appears that the only reason the other player is beating you is because you’re injured. Then, when you suddenly return to form, it makes your opponent look like a bad player because he is losing to someone with an injury. There are a numbers of players who do this, and not many of them have large fan bases.
Anywhere but Paris, and the crowd would have been all over Benneteau. His antics are disappointing to me.
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