After three double-faults, including one off an attempted underarm serve, world No. 50 Alexander Bublik found himself down 6-0 in a deciding tiebreak against world No. 75 Grégoire Barrère in the first round of the Montpellier Open on Wednesday. Every six points in a tiebreak, players change sides. They might also sip a drink or swap out equipment at this time. Bublik used this opportunity to subtly modify three of his rackets. The commentary was perfect.
While this scene speaks for itself, it's even better if you have some context around Bublik, who is the preeminent buffoon on tour, equal parts trick shots and self-sabotage. He had won his first singles titles in Montpellier last season, which meant he had 250 ranking points to defend; he'd led by a break in the third set of this match, serving to go up 5-2, before double-faulting away that game and losing the script entirely. Two years ago, at this same tournament, he confessed that he "hates tennis with all my heart" and "detests every day I have to play it." (He later walked that back and said he's living out his childhood dreams.) Heading into this triple-racket destruction, Bublik had also lost his last eight matches in a row, going back to October.
In truth, this is probably not even the most brazen thing he's done on court in the last year. During the championship match(!) in Metz last September, Bublik had an easy ball to put away at the net. But he flipped his racket around, used the handle to tap the ball back, and promptly lost that point to go down two breaks in the set. He'd lose the match. Bublik had gotten away with a similar shot earlier that season, but after this failure he was booed magnificently by the crowd. "Don't take it too serious," he captioned his Instagram post of the humiliation.
At Eastbourne last summer, Bublik carried on a lengthy debate with the ump about whether he dropped or threw a racket. I sort of want him to claim he "dropped" these three rackets at Montpellier, too. Rather than earning a point penalty, and losing the match that way, Bublik was issued a warning for racket abuse, and Barrère cashed out his third match point to win 6-4, 6-7(12), 7-6(3). That's nine losses in a row for Alexander Bublik, who, if I had to hazard a guess, hates tennis with all his heart again.