Alex Bogomolov Jr. was down, but hardly out. The Russian-born American ex-pat was facing match point in Monday's first-round match against Frenchman Arnaud Clement. Yet it was on his serve and he had seen his 34-year-old opponent survive a similar situation an hour earlier.
And then the cramps came. While preparing to serve to stay in the match at 4-5 in the fifth set, Bogomolov's leg cramps became too much to bear. He tried to walk them out for a minute before quitting on match point. Clement had to quiet French fans who booed Bogomolov's decision:
"I couldn't bend [my leg]," Bogomolov said after the match. "I couldn't walk. I didn't want to risk a potential ligament damage or something. And you can't get a trainer for that."
Even with a reasonable answer like that, the reflex is to do what the French fans did and question Bogomolov's decision. "Why couldn't he have hit two serves into the net and lost with dignity?" Would that have been a more sportsmanlike way to lose?
There's a misguided nobility assigned to individual sports like tennis. If Bogmolov played a team sport, his cramps wouldn't be an issue. He'd be subbed out for teammate and the event would continue. But Bogomolov was on his own. There was no place to hide and nowhere else to go. It may have been more dignified to try and serve out the match, even if it meant lofting a serve that Clement tattooed for a match-ending winner. The end result was still the same.