Head of Spanish OC wants Nadal as flag bearer in Rio

Getty Images

MADRID — The president of Spain’s Olympic committee would like to see Rafael Nadal as the country’s flag bearer in Rio de Janeiro, in part to make a statement after recent doping accusations made against him.

It will be up to a group of federation presidents to pick the flag bearer, but Alejandro Blanco said Wednesday that Nadal deserves to be chosen for what he has done for Spanish sports.

The former top-ranked tennis player was supposed to be the flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics but got injured before the games and was replaced by NBA player Pau Gasol.

Blanco also said Spain has been getting a bad reputation related to doping and called for the government to adapt to new requirements by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which earlier this month declared the nation to be non-compliant with its regulations.

Speaking at a media event in Madrid, Blanco said having Nadal as Spain’s flag bearer would be important after the recent doping accusations made by former French Minister for Health and Sport Roselyne Bachelot, who claimed on French television that the Spaniard’s seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was “probably due to a positive doping test.”

“Spanish sports owe him a lot,” Blanco said. “In Beijing, he was the athlete who was followed the most by the international media and by other athletes. Rafa Nadal took Spanish sports to another level.

“I think he should be the flag bearer, especially after how he has been treated. He deserves to feel that Spanish sports care about him.”

A 14-time Grand Slam champion and the gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics, Nadal has been one of the country’s biggest sports idols in recent years. He was defended by the country’s government and several other local athletes after the accusations made by Bachelot.

“Nadal is a reference,” Blanco said. “He was picked as the flag bearer for London, he should be picked again for Rio.”

Speaking about the new WADA requirements, Blanco said it was unacceptable for Spain to be unable to adapt its doping laws. He said that the government’s lack of action was hurting the image of the athletes abroad.

“Every country has adapted to the new code, there is no reason why we can’t do it as well,” Blanco said. “We can’t be a negative reference when in practice we have an extremely positive record.”

Spain’s anti-doping rules are also law, and a political stalemate has stopped the country from making the changes required by WADA.

Blanco also said Spanish athletes have the right to decide not to go to Rio if they fear for their health because of Zika, but didn’t expect the virus to affect the games in a major way.

“The athletes will know ahead of time what the situation will be,” he said.

He also expressed his full trust in the Brazilian government and the international community to avoid problems related to security and terrorism.

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”