Adrian Mannarino: Controversial Participation in the “Northern Palmyra Trophies” Exhibition Tournament

Adrian Mannarino during a match on the center court of Roland-Garros, May 28, 2023 in Paris. THOMAS SAMSON / AFP

What is he going to do in this mess? While the endless tennis season takes a break for a few weeks, before starting again at the turn of the new year, the French number two, Adrian Mannarino, plays overtime. Known for his atypical game – he admits to hating clay for example – and his discretion, the current world 22nd is in the news not because he is coming off the best season of his career – at the age of 35 –, but because of his participation in a controversial exhibition tournament, from Friday December 1 to Sunday December 3, in Saint Petersburg (Russia): the “Northern Palmyra Trophies”, financed by the hydrocarbon giant Gazprom.

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If some go to sunbathe on heavenly beaches, enjoy their families or announce their return to competition (like Rafael Nadal), others take advantage of the interval to compete in very lucrative exhibitions. Thus, the world number two, Carlos Alcaraz, faced the American Tommy Paul this week at an altitude of 2,200 m, in Mexico; and the phenomenon is not new. For a long time, organizers with deep pockets have taken advantage of the off-season to organize meetings or competitions outside the circuit, and with non-existent sporting interest.

Questions about the benefit of seeing players use their free time to chase the four corners of the planet are not new. In a congested schedule, several organizers have gritted their teeth seeing certain big names skip their tournaments in favor of much more lucrative exhibitions. “That’s the beauty of the offseason. We are free to do what we wantdefended Roger Federer in 2012, questioned by The weather. If players want to use this free time to play matches anywhere, that’s their choice. If they want to rest for six weeks and just do nothing, they can too. » That year, the Swiss went on a rock star tour of South America, organized by sponsors; and he frequently faced his great rival Rafael Nadal in spectacular exhibitions in Gulf countries.

In the logic of Russian alternative competitions

On paper, nothing abnormal, therefore, to see Adrian Mannarino and others taking part in an exhibition at the beginning of December. Except that in the context of the war in Ukraine, it is impossible to ignore the location and the organizers of the “Northern Palmyra Trophies”.

Organized in Saint Petersburg, this mixed team exhibition – the “Lions” and the “Sphinxes” – which is in its second edition, is sponsored by the gas giant Gazprom. And it is part of the logic of the Russian power to set up alternative competitions, while the country remains largely banned from world sport – even if the question of the participation of Russian athletes in the Paris Olympic Games is still not not decided. The ATP and WTA tournaments taking place in Russia were therefore suspended from March 2022.

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2023-12-02 07:29:29
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