French Open: Freak accident forces David Goffin to retire from tournament

David Goffin lays on the clay after tripping over a rolled-up tarp. (AP)

A 2016 French Open quarterfinalist, Belgian tennis player David Goffin ended his 2017 tournament run early after diving for a return, catching his foot on a tarp and suffering a fall.

The No. 10-seeded player led 5-4 in the first set when he leapt for a ball hit by Horacio Zeballos and slid into the tarp. Goffin’s right foot caught on the material, causing him to remain on the clay until trainers came up assist him off the court.

An MRI later reveled that Goffin suffered no tears or breaks, but his coach Thierry Van Cleemput remains unsure of when Goffin will hit the court next.

“As we speak, we cannot tell you when he’s up and running again and when he can play tennis,”  Van Cleemput told Reuters. “Will he play on grass? I don’t know. I can’t answer this question.”

The accident also led to a series of tournament critiques by highly ranked players, including Rafael Nadal.

“It’s terrible. It’s really bad luck. I always thought that that tarp was dangerous and not in the right place,” Nadal said.

David Goffin was forced to retire after injuring his right ankle. (AP)

Garbine Muguruza, a Spanish tennis star and 2016 French Open champ, said she faced a similar issue playing on these courts four years ago. She caught her ankle under the tarp, just like Goffin, and said she hopes the tournament officials make the court safer in the future. The tarp is used to cover the court when it rains, but the layout could be altered given Goffin’s injury and the safety of others.

Goffin’s coach said he expects the court set-up to change after the injury and the comments from Nadal and Muguruza.

“I don’t think that this event will be followed by no consequences,” Van Cleemput said. “There will be consequences.”

In an act of sportsmanship, Zeballos carefully carried Goffin’s bags off the court when he saw that his opponent needed assistance. Zeballos’ move serves as a second memorably gracious act of the tournament, and commenters noted that sportsmanship has been a trademark of this year’s Grand Slam. On Thursday, Argentine tennis star Juan Martin del Porto made headlines when he consoled his opponent Nicolas Almagro after Almagro suffered an injury. Tennis Channel commentator John Wertheim said he suspects that the series of sportsmanlike actions could be attributed to the maturity of the players in the field, and he praised Zeballos for following del Porto’s example.

“What a nice sort of instinctive act of empathy and humanity by Zeballos just on the heels of what we’ve seen all tournament,” Wertheim said. 

Zeballos, ranked 65th in the world, advances to the round of 16 and will face Dominic Thiem.