A “farcical scene” unfolded at the Hobart International on Tuesday when tennis players Sachia Vickery and Elise Mertens both claimed to suffer injuries at the same time – just one game into their second round match – and called for a trainer, reportedly in order to bow out of the tournament ahead of the Australian Open.
As New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg explained on Twitter, both Vickery and Mertens – ranked 135th and 127th in the world, respectively – will play Australian Open qualifiers later this week. With these (comparatively important) matches on their immediate horizon, the belief is that neither Vickery nor Mertens much wanted to remain in the Hobart International. However, if either player had withdrawn before their match, she would have also been disqualified from the Australian Opener qualifiers.
And so, after Vickery held serve in the opening game of the match to take a 1-0 lead, she called a trainer and quickly retired. Mertens, too, had called for a trainer at the changeover, so two trainers scurried onto the court. Ultimately, the umpire deemed Vickery to have retired first, and Mertens advanced.
Here’s how the scene unfolded:
It’s impossible to determine definitively that either Vickery or Mertens tried to intentionally lose the match. That said, it’s certainly a puzzling coincidence that both players would call for the trainer after the first game of the match, which took place during the same week as a qualifier for a Grand Slam.
The move, if intentional, could end up being a costly one for Vickery. In order to equal what she would have earned had she played out her match against Mertens and won, she needs to survive the qualifiers at the Aussie Open and gain entry into the main draw. She then must win her first-round match. But if she can manage that, the extra rest could pay off big time.