Brawl breaks out as teen tennis player slaps opponent at net after losing a match
France's Michael Kouame, 15, was defeated 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 by Ghana's Raphael Nii Ankrah in the first round of an International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior championship in Accra, Ghana. ITF tournaments feed the ATP Challenger Tour and the WTA 125K Tour, which feed the ATP and WTA tours, respectively.
The tournament's top seed, Kouame, reached for a handshake with his opponent at the net after the match and hit him across the face. As a result of this behavior, spectators erupted in a massive brawl.
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Gasps can be heard from the crowd in footage taken on Twitter by an onlooker and disseminated by a number of tennis reporters and fan pages, before Kouame appears to apologize to Ankrah.
Number 1 seeded player Michael Kouame from France 🇫🇷 slaps Raphael Nii Ankrah 🇬🇭 after losing in the ongoing TGF ITF jnrs world tour at the Accra sports stadium pic.twitter.com/pj4WjfifXZ— KENNETH KWESI GIBSON 🎾 (@Kwesi_Gibson) April 4, 2022
Following that, another video posted by the same fan shows what appears to be members of each player's camp engaged in a violent brawl on the court's side.
April 4, 2022
Following a series of high-profile events, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) announced that it would crack down on improper on-court behavior by players. After Alexander Zverev stormed the umpire's chair with his racket at the Mexican Open, the organization was harshly criticized for just issuing a suspended sentence. It has also been criticized for its reactions to recent instances including Nick Kyrgios and Jenson Brooksby hurling their rackets at ball kids. The ATP warned players in an email sent out on Monday, April 4 that it would be tougher on them if they continued to engage in such behaviour.
According to Reuters, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in an email, "Effective immediately and as we head into the clay court swing, the ATP officiating team has been directed to take a stricter stance in judging violations of the Code of Conduct. Additionally, we are also undertaking a review of the Code, as well as the disciplinary processes, to ensure that it provides appropriate and up-to-date penalties for serious violations and repeat offenders."
Kouame, who is placed 606th in the ITF Junior World rankings, is still competing in the Accra doubles competition and is set to play on Tuesday.