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Tennis Player Fined For Desperate Extra-Ball Shenanigans That Everyone Saw

Hugo Gaston of France reacts during his match against Dane Sweeny of Australia during day 5 of the Danube Upper Austria Open 2023, part of the ATP Challenger Tour on May 11, 2023 in Mauthausen, Austria.
Guenther Iby/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

It's not that easy to cheat in professional tennis. There are no practices to spy on or balls to deflate or fish to stuff with weights. Players can't toggle between screens. There's no flopping or sticky stuff. Of course tennis players have been known to take PEDs and engage in match-fixing, but in-game shenanigans to secure an advantage are hard to execute.

Shots are called in and out by a combination of line judges, chair umpires, and video replay, which rules out the kind of cheating most liable to happen in amateur or recreational tennis. "Dirty" players can try and get in each other's heads by taking endless toilet breaks, cheering their opponent's faults, or complaining about their opponent cheering their faults, but the match is the match. It's a simple sport; if you try and cheat, it's going to be pretty obvious.

French tennis player Hugo Gaston tried it anyway, and now he's paying the price. On Monday, the ATP fined him 144,000 euros, or roughly $155,000, for a trick he pulled during his second-round match against Borna Coric on April 28 at the Madrid Open. Gaston fished a second ball out of his pocket in the middle of a point and tossed it on the court in an attempt to get the chair umpire to call a let.

Well well well. Caught in 4K, or at least 720p:

The extra-ball toss did not work in the moment—Coric won the match 6-3, 6-3—and ended up costing Gaston dearly. The original fine was so high, more than all the prize money Gaston has accumulated this year ($121,712), because the sneaky move was his fourth unsportsmanlike conduct violation of 2023. The ATP did not identify the previous violations in its announcement, but said fines "increase by 100 percent with each consecutive violation in the same season." Gaston appealed his punishment, however, and the ATP reduced the fine to 72,000 euros (around $77,500), as long as he is a good boy and has no additional violations for a year.

Last week, the French Tennis Federation gave the 108th-ranked Gaston a wild-card entry to the French Open, which begins this Sunday. No more slick moves, Gaston.

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