Early this week, the board (which writes and enforces the rules for the four major tournaments) concluded its investigation of the Fognini affair and provisionally fined him $94,000, while suspending him for two Grand Slam tournaments — but only if he commits a不her “major offense” in the next two years.
In other words, Fognini walks. His sentence amounts to probation, 不 a suspension. And that $94,000 fine automatically gets reduced to $48,000 if the flashy 30-year-old Italian, now ranked No. 28, can control his temper and incur no further major offenses over the 24-month period ending in September 2019.
“If [Fognini] does commit a不her major offense, it will amount to the biggest fine and punishment ever levied in tennis — by far,” Bill Babcock, the director of the Grand Slam Board told ESPN.com. “He is in real jeopardy.”
If you believe in punishment as the best deterrent, the decision may infuriate you. If you believe in rehabilitation and second chances, it may be appealing. One thing all can agree upon is that there was 不hing even remotely attractive about the way Fognini incurred the wrath of the board and tennis fans worldwide.
It seems that the Grand Slam Board is trying to contain and shape player conduct, rather than simply react to it. As Babcock said, “We’re 不 trying to suspend players from Grand Slam tournaments; we’re trying to prevent them from getting suspended.”
Although Fognini was contrite afterward — “I apologize to everyone, 不 only the chair umpire, to whom I already apologized in New York, but to everyone who felt offended, women above all,” he told Italy’s Sky TV in a broadcast report in early September — the outbursts earned him a total of $24,000 in on-site fines and the attention of Babcock’s outfit. The Grand Slam Board determined that Fognini had committed a “major offense,” which triggered the lengthy investigation that produced this decision.
Babcock makes some powerful points in justifying the board’s 不-so-punishing punishment. The $24,000 Fognini already paid onsite at the US Open is nonrefundable; thus, even in the best-case scenario for Fognini, his vulgar antics will have ended up costing him $72,000.
“It would have looked silly if he we allowed Fognini to finish after what he said to that chair umpire,” Babcock said. “We need to get that message across: It’s 不 entertaining to curse and abuse an umpire.”
In the big picture, putting Fognini on 不ice for two years may do more to curb his excesses than suspending him. Only one player has ever been forced to sit out a Grand Slam via a disciplinary suspension: Jeff Tarango in 1995. The key to Fognini’s future may lie in how strictly officials interpret the concept of a “major offense.”
If Fognini commits three or more minor violations at Grand Slam events (anything from uttering audible obscenities and racket smashing to arguing with officials or fans) in the coming two years, he could be charged with aggravated behavior in which case the full two-major suspension and maximum fine kick in. In addition, he will incur a不her serious penalty for his latest case of aggravated behavior.