WIMBLEDON, England – If it was any other Grand Slam event, maybe Michael Llodra would have gotten off lightly. But given the elevated number of journalists from British publications at Wimbledon, he did not escape.
Llodra, a 33-year-old Frenchman, was taken into the main interview room Thursday at the All England Club after he and his partner, Nicolas Mahut, advanced in doubles when one of their opponents, Jaroslav Levinsky, retired with a back injury in the first round.
Llodra retired from singles earlier in the day with a hamstring injury while trailing Andreas Seppi of Italy, 7-5, before teaming with Mahut. Together they reached the French Open final this month.
His quick recovery, coupled with his record, caught the eye.
In Llodra’s 14-year career, in which he has sometimes dazzled in singles with his net play but has achieved greater success in doubles, he has now either retired or been a walkover more than 30 times.
“I play singles and doubles 14 years in a row,” Llodra said. “It’s a lot. In soccer sometimes you don’t play the match. You say to the coach, ‘I don’t want to be on the football stadium’ and you stay on the bench. Nobody cares.
“Me, if I’m on the court, I want to be 100 percent sure. Otherwise it’s not good for me, it’s not good for the fans.”
His explanation did not satisfy some journalists, who continued to question him. It was Llodra’s fourth retirement in 13 visits to Wimbledon.
“Do you want to apologize to the spectators who were at your singles match and were hoping to see a full match?” one said.
“I want to apologize for me,” was a part of Llodra’s answer.
“But then you go and play doubles,” came the reply.
“Yeah, for sure it’s not easy,” Llodra said.
Llodra, who was fined $2,500 for verbally abusing a fan last year and clashed verbally on court with his fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire in March, was willing to publicize results of medical tests to prove he was not fully healthy.
Nothing in the Grand Slam rules prevented Llodra from playing doubles after his retirement in singles once he was given clearance by a doctor on site, the International Tennis Federation said. The I.T.F. has no plans to revise the rule.
Llodra would also have been allowed to play had he been on the ATP World Tour. But on the women’s WTA tour, if a player retires in singles, she cannot participate in doubles later the same day.
Llodra was not, however, the first player in this tournament to retire in singles and subsequently show up in doubles. Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic contested his doubles match with Leander Paes, although he called it quits with a hamstring injury a day earlier, not the same day.
And last year at Wimbledon, Vera Zvonareva retired with a respiratory illness against Kim Clijsters only to play mixed doubles hours later.
“I prefer to focus in doubles,” Llodra said. “I think I have more chances to win this tournament. Sometimes you have to make the choice, and was difficult, but I decide to play doubles.”
Unlike the three other Grand Slam events, men’s doubles at Wimbledon is a best-of-five-sets contest, not best-of-three.
When he was on the tour 25 years ago, Brad Gilbert said, withdrawing from singles, then playing doubles the same day would not have crossed many players’ minds.
The I.T.F. should potentially consider altering the rule, he added.
“It’s in the rules now, but it’s up to the doctor,” said Gilbert, who went on to coach Andre Agassi, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. “Obviously, the fans that were there feel like they were let down because he doesn’t finish the singles match and gets to go over.
“It’s one of those slippery slopes.”