The tennis player on whom Fatma Al Nabhani walked out after allegations of racism from match officials in France, has reacted to the charges laid down by the Omani athlete, in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe.
Al Nabhani had abandoned her match against Myrtille Georges at the ITF 21A tournament in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand, accusing the match umpire of racial bias against her.
Speaking to French publication L'Equipe, Georges said she was surprised by the videos that were circulating on social media, in which an emotional Al Nabhani had said she’d never previously experienced racism in this form.
"It is becoming so important that something like this does not happen," said Georges. "It's been two days since I received messages of insult, and it’s not a very nice set of messages for the story of a girl who was just not able to finish her match. I find it a pity. I am a little surprised by her message on social networks. It is by no means a story of racism."
Al Nabhani had raised a number of issues about the manner in which she was treated, including not being given water on court, the absence of ball boys, and the umpire asking her to remove her leggings ahead of the match. The sport's governing body, the International Tennis Federation, is now investigating the manner.
Al Nabhani had also made claims of Georges placing tennis balls behind her in order to cause a distraction.
The Frenchwoman added: "To err is human. All of the people who had been at the tournament had seen that there had been errors across all the matches. She cannot overrule the five balls as she says, because she did not contest a single match point during the entire game. Yes, I can understand that errors were made, but you have to look at it from both sides."
According to Georges, given the budgets of local tournaments, which are not held on the same scale as WTA events, budget constraints mean it is not always possible to strictly follow all the stipulations set out by the body.
"Honestly, the match point that she did contest consisted largely of fouls," Georges told L'Equipe. "Deep down, she knows this. Her coach was on the line, he knows it as well, but he prefers to push it aside. I don't know what was going on inside her head, but at no point is there racism.
"Me as well, I had training programmes that had been modified because some other player needed to play in single matches and they needed priority. It’s like that, we know that when we are talking about US$25,000, it’s not like you have the same means as the Women’s Tennis Association to adapt. Her mother and her coach could have done their best to calm the player down, but instead, they have only put more oil on the fire."
Georges went on to add that had Al Nabhani won her games, none of the allegations she'd made would have seen the light of day.
"I think what is deplorable is that had she won any of her match points, there wouldn't have even been a word of this story," said Georges. "This is hurtful to the French tournament... If she thinks that this is a question of religion, she is wrong."
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