Horrible thing for both Ferrero and now Korolev
Safin, Hewitt slam ATP over Blake reinstatement fiasco
LAS VEGAS, March 1 (Reuters) - The ATP's decision to controversially award James Blake a place in the quarter-finals of the Las Vegas Open on Thursday has been slammed by leading players Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt.
The American was handed a place in the last eight by the ATP despite the fact that under its own rules, Russian Evgeny Korolev should have advanced instead, thanks to his victory over Blake in their round-robin match earlier in the week.
In a statement, the ATP said Blake would be awarded the group win "on the basis that the rules were not sufficiently explained".
Needing to beat Argentine Juan Martin del Potro with the loss of no more than five games to advance to the last eight, top seed Blake was leading 6-1 3-1 when his opponent retired because of breathing problems, handing Blake a walkover.
But Blake was then told he would not advance as the rules stated games won or lost in a walkover did not count and his place would go to Korolev only for the ATP to backtrack and send the American through.
Safin and Hewitt said the ATP had been wrong.
"I want to say that the way it has been handled is just a disgrace," Safin told Reuters.
"I feel very bad for Korolev because he had nothing to do with it. He's a young guy, only on the tour a year and all of a sudden he got screwed by the organisation.
"For a serious organisation like the ATP, you can't make these kind of decisions in the middle of the week, by the phone, without being there, and not to talk to the guy that's in the situation.
"And the CEO (Etienne de Villiers) disappointed me a lot. In this situation he should have handled it in a different way. It's ridiculous what they did. They have no explanation and it doesn't really fit in my brain.
Safin said had the shoe been on the other foot, Korolev would not have been given the place in the last eight.
"This is exactly the saddest part," he said. "If it had been the other way around, nobody would care about it and it just would be no discussion at all."
Hewitt said he was 'mystified' by the decision.
"To change a rule mid-tournament - that's just not right," he said.
"We all start a tournament in the same boat, in the same situation. I feel sorry for the bloke that misses out, that's for sure."
The ATP said Korolev had been awarded $11,375, the average sum of the prize money for the quarter-finals and semi-finals, but Hewitt said he would have been livid.
"(I'd be) pissed off," he said. "This is a kid on the rise. He's beaten Blake (6-2 6-4) two nights ago. A little bit of prize money's not going to mean a whole lot to him.
"It would have been unlucky for James, he was only three games away from getting through but rules are rules.
"If that had been me, I would have done everything in my power to get through, big tournament or small tournament"
Hewitt said he and several other players had been told the rule by the ATP before del Potro's withdrawal.
"Me and a few other guys were sitting in the players lounge watching the match. We said, 'is there any way that Korolev gets though?' And they said, 'if del Potro withdraws'. Even on TV they were saying it, so everyone was aware of the rule.
"The rules are in place -- you can't do anything about that. So that's why I'm a little bit gobsmacked. It really is amazing."