Tennis players need to respect ball boys and ball girls, Roger Federer said in the wake of a row following Fernando Verdasco’s rant over a sweaty towel.
Verdasco was cast as a villain on social media last week after appearing to berate a ballboy for not bringing his towel quickly enough during a semi-final defeat at the Shenzen Open. A video of the Spanish world No 30 impatiently gesticulating and appearing to rant at the youngster swiftly circulated on social media, leading to a raft of criticism from fans and pundits.
Federer on Tuesday stopped short of criticising Verdasco – acknowledging that nerves can become ragged in competition – but he did stress the need for respect. “Sure you always want to respect the ball kids for who they are and the great job that they’re doing,” the Swiss said, adding: “But it’s not easy for each and every player to control their emotions exactly.”
Federer, who acted as a ballboy in his youth, said he felt most of the young helpers understood the pressure players are under, but that it was vital they enjoyed a good experience at tournaments.
“The ball kids are really important to us because they are also maybe the future of our game,” said Federer, in Shanghai for the Masters tournament. “I was happy when I left a tennis tournament, I felt like: ‘Oh man, it was just all good.’ There were no negatives, so you don’t want to have them leave feeling like, oh my god, like I was not appreciated or I was not liked or it was actually a horrible thing, you know? So yes, it needs to be taken care of.”
At next month’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan – the season-ending tournament for the best under-21 male players – competitors will be instructed to use a towel rack at the end of the court “to remove the onus on ball kids to handle towels”.
Meanwhile on the court, British No 1 Kyle Edmund battled into the second round in Shanghai Masters with an unconvincing straight-sets win over Filip Krajinovic. The 23-year-old was given a stern test before eventually progressing 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 32 minutes.
Edmund, who has never lost in the first round of this tournament, looked in trouble at 4-2 and a break point down in the opening set but showed resilience to come back and edge through. He will face the experienced Andreas Seppi in the last 32 of the competition after the Italian overcame France’s Adrian Mannarino on Monday.
And at the Tianjin Open, Katie Boulter upset the eighth seed Maria Sakkari to reach the second round with a straight-sets victory.
The 22-year-old Briton progressed 7-6 (4), 6-3 against the world No 42 in China. The unseeded Boulter will play Barbora Krejcikova in the last 16 after the Czech qualifier progressed due to the retirement of Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova in their first-round meeting.