Michael Llodra was losing the second set of his match at the French Open to a Belgian qualifier ranked No. 135 in the world. As a No. 22 seed playing in the first round, this was unexpected. As a Frenchman playing in front of a partisan crowd, it was unacceptable. So Llodra did what any bad sport does; he got frustrated at somebody else.
Trailing 5-2 in the second set, Llodra took issue with a security guard he thought was moving around too much. Though she was behind him, Llodra turned around before a point and began admonishing the woman. The verbal exchange wasn't picked up by cameras but Llodra's reaction to the one-sided conversation was. He took a ball and lightly hit it at her, earning a warning from chair umpire Mohamed El Jennati.
The fireworks didn't end there. After receiving the warning, Llodra demanded that El Jennati call security to remove the guard. "We are not in a souk," he said. "We are not selling carpets in a market."
A souk is a loud, commercial area in Arab cities.
After the match, which he would go on to lose in four sets, Llodra discussed the comment. "It's too easy to give me a warning," he said. "Anyway, it was not that serious."
I agree with Llodra. The comment wasn't that serious. Though some in the press ran with the story of a player's racist statement to a Moroccan chair umpire, the French Open didn't discipline Llodra for the souk line. Organizers made the correct call.
Using a relatable analogy isn't racist. A souk is a loud place in Morocco. If the chair umpire was American, would everyone have flipped out if Llodra had said "this isn't Wal-Mart"? Would Llodra get mad if I said he was ruder than a waiter in a Parisian cafe or that he folded in the match like the French armies of yore? These are just loose comparisons, people! Can't something be impolite and slightly uncivil without having racial motives attached to it?
The real issue was Llodra hitting the ball at the security guard, something nobody seemed to care about in light of his souk comment. How are some throwaway words stronger than a bush-league move like that?
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- Michael Llodra