The lesson from Musetti-gate: It's not a crime to retire from loss of condition.

skip1969

G.O.A.T.
The oddly-timed retirement of Musetti at 0-4 of the fifth set in his match against Djokovic has been much talked about. It has been used to bash Musetti; to bash his generation; to bash other players not even in his generation . . . But instead, it made me wonder why a player who had absolutely no chance of winning his match would retire in the fashion that he did.

There was confusion during the match, itself. There was talk of Musetti being injured. Nothing was clear. Then we waited for the press conference for clarification, and Musetti gave a somewhat confused explanation. English is not his first language, but he did convey that he did not succumb to an injury sustained mid-match. He was just hurting, in general, from the physical toll of the match. And he was tired.

Yet, he continued playing. He lost the third set 6-1. The fourth set 6-0. And lost the first four games of the fifth before calling it quits. And the question I had was, "Why?"

I think the lesson for Musetti, and for all players and fans, is that there's nothing wrong with retiring from "loss of condition." Players used to retire all the time from it, during grueling matches, or under extreme weather conditions (or both). It simply meant that your fitness (or lack thereof) prohibited you from finishing the match. You walked to the net (if able), shook hands, and congratulated your opponent on the victory. Why is this so hard to do now?

I would argue that the grinding nature of the tour has placed more of a premium on fitness than ever before. Everyone is a grinder now. But not everyone is super fit. In addition, we have given the players more and more tools for them use/misuse in order to manipulate the flow of the game. Modern players have bathroom breaks and medical time outs that they abused for years in order to stall, delay, disrupt momentum, recover, etc. They have learned very well that they can (and are allowed to) bend and manipulate any rule so long as an advantage can be gained. That win at all cost mentality, combined with using gamesmanship with impunity has resulted in players simply refusing to take the straightforward and honest decision to simply retire from lack of fitness.

Perhaps this explains why young Musetti, a player brought up in the MTO generation, couldn't shake hands after the third set, or the fourth? He felt he had to go on, even though he must have known all the while that he was going to lose. But then he quit before match point, which negated the whole purpose of staying on court. It left everyone confused, unsatisfied, or angry. Why stay out there for 17 games and not 19? Why stay out there at all?

And perhaps that should be the big takeaway for pros and fans, alike. Saying "No mas" isn't a crime. It means you lost because your opponent exposed your lack of fitness. It doesn't diminish your achievements in a tournament, or on the tour. It doesn't mean you're no good. It doesn't mean you don't have a promising future. It means you need to work on your fitness, that's all.

The biggest irony was not lost on me or a few others on TTW. Musetti lost to Djokovic. Exposed, and run into the ground by a player who has re-defined fitness in our sport. But a player who, before he came to greatness, had a lot of difficulty completing long and grueling matches. His fitness, his heart, his future were all questioned ad nauseam when he was younger. And yet . . .
 

mike danny

Bionic Poster
Novak was bashed to no end when he retired matches during the younger days. I am not gonna debate whether he deserved it or not but it'll be the double standards of the highest order if the same guys show sympathy towards Musetti
I agree in principle.

But maybe some people show Musetti more sympathy because it used to happen to Novak in the past and he is now one of the GOATS. Just saying.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
The more likely explanation is that he was a 19 year old kid who got lost in the moment and forgot that, barring serious injury, tennis etiquette required him to stand on the court for five more minutes.

There is no evidence that he could not do that as he himself said that he was not particularly injured. Only that he was cramping so much that he "could not win another point".

He was physically severely limited but it is not like he was dying out there and incapable of standing for 5 more minutes. Not a big deal but best to finish it out.

If this kid had to do it again he would have finished it out.

The lesson here is not that "no mas" is acceptable. Tennis is not boxing so "no mas" is not applicable unless seriously injured which he was not.

The lesson here is that retirement only draws more attention to yourself. Finish it out.

Follow the 100 years of well-established tennis etiquette.
 
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Tennis_Freak99

Hall of Fame
I agree in principle.

But maybe some people show Musetti more sympathy because it used to happen to Novak in the past and he is now one of the GOATS. Just saying.
That's true and I agree with you, although I still see a lot of people and tennis pundits reasoning Novak's hate from the crowd to him retiring in matches during his early years. That means large faction still holds it against him which I feel is unfair.

Secondly I don't remember (I could be wrong) Djokovic retiring when the opponent was 2 games away from winning the match or less. Musetti confirmed that he wasn't injured and it was because of the 'crowd' apparently. I think that's way worse a reason to retire that too so close to the end
 

mike danny

Bionic Poster
That's true and I agree with you, although I still see a lot of people and tennis pundits reasoning Novak's hate from the crowd to him retiring in matches during his early years. That means large faction still holds it against him which I feel is unfair.

Secondly I don't remember (I could be wrong) Djokovic retiring when the opponent was 2 games away from winning the match or less. Musetti confirmed that he wasn't injured and it was because of the 'crowd' apparently. I think that's way worse a reason to retire that too so close to the end
Well, not that close, but he should have allowed Roddick to finish him off at AO 2009. Wasn't far away. Only 3 holds of serve.
 

FlamingCheeto

Professional
it's not a crime per se, but in the court of public opinion aka here it is an unforgiveable sin. Even sinner agrees.
 

blablavla

Legend
That's true and I agree with you, although I still see a lot of people and tennis pundits reasoning Novak's hate from the crowd to him retiring in matches during his early years. That means large faction still holds it against him which I feel is unfair.

Secondly I don't remember (I could be wrong) Djokovic retiring when the opponent was 2 games away from winning the match or less. Musetti confirmed that he wasn't injured and it was because of the 'crowd' apparently. I think that's way worse a reason to retire that too so close to the end
that's called brain, retire when the opponent is 4 or 6 games away from winning the match
 

Tennis_Freak99

Hall of Fame
Well, not that close, but he should have allowed Roddick to finish him off at AO 2009. Wasn't far away. Only 3 holds of serve.
I agree this was pretty much similar to yesterday's match, but Novak was crucified by the media, Roddick and even Federer after that. Musetti ain't getting a fraction of the hate
 

BillKid

Professional
Can anyone imagine Nadal or Djokovic stop fighting until the last point? (The same goes with Federer although my point is not to discuss his controversial retirement from this RG)
Actually Musetti has a nice game and he may have made an error partly because he’s young.
But he will have to change his mindset if he wants to climb to the highest level.
 
Well Novak also had an undiagnosed allergy holding him back, despite which he managed to with the 2008 AO and become #3 in the world. I think that’s a little different than retiring from something controllable through work like not having the stamina to finish.

Its mental too with Musetti, no one really has much left in the tank in the 5th. It’s why the 5 set match is one of the most difficult mental and physical tasks in sport: you have to be mentally tough enough to keep going when you are fatigued and exhausted despite what your opponent is doing.

Im still a fan of the kid and his game. Hopefully he learns a few lessons from this: manage energy and don’t redline and wear yourself out after 2 sets, put in more conditioning work, and work on mental strength primarily.
 

blablavla

Legend
Can anyone imagine Nadal or Djokovic stop fighting until the last point? (The same goes with Federer although my point is not to discuss his controversial retirement of this RG)
Actually Musetti has a nice game and he may have made an error partly because he’s young.
But he will have to change his mindset if he wants to climb to the highest level.
the Djokovic that retired mid a bunch of matches?
or the one that was told that the best way to identify an allergy is to put a loaf of bread at your stomach and never looked back since?
 

zvelf

Hall of Fame
I don't think it's a huge sin that Musetti retired 2 games from finishing the match, but he really should have played it out. If he knew he had no chance, he should have retired after the 4th set, but with only 3 or 4 minutes to go? Just bite the bullet.
 
Djokovic was bashed to no end when he retired matches during his younger days by a lot of people. I am not gonna debate whether he deserved it or not but it'll be double standards of the highest order if the same people show sympathy towards Musetti
Has Novak shown sympathy towards Musetti? Doesn't look like it.
 
Djokovic retired 3 games into the third set after a 5-7 second set, not after 1-6, 0-6, 0-4, so Djokovic retired at an appropriate time etiquette-wise. The two are not comparable.
Since when is retiring three games away from losing (when you can help it) appropriate etiquette?
Musetti won more games in this match than Djokovic did in that one.
 

Tennis_Freak99

Hall of Fame
Didn't he say something like Musetti's struggles motivated him to play better yet.
Why shouldn't he capitalize on his weakness DURING the match? Obviously he won't show 'sympathy' there and lose.

I was talking about the Post match conference where Djokovic didn't bash Musetti for not finishing the match, he was sympathetic to his condition. Just compare this to the way Roddick and Fed bashed Novak for retiring in AO 2009.

So that's my point, if you are somebody who heavily criticised Djokovic back in the day, show the same hate for Musetti as well, no hypocrisy here.
 
Why shouldn't he capitalize on his weakness DURING the match? Obviously he won't show 'sympathy' there and lose.

I was talking about the Post match conference where Djokovic didn't bash Musetti for not finishing the match, he was sympathetic to his condition. Just compare this to the way Roddick and Fed bashed Novak for retiring in AO 2009.

So that's my point, if you are somebody who heavily criticised Djokovic back in the day, show the same hate for Musetti as well, no hypocrisy here.
Actons speak louder than words though. Just give the obviously ailing kid a game, it won't hurt you as he's in no condition to make use of it. That would be sympathetic.

The retirement was lame for sure, but nevertheless in a way just, as Djokovic wouldn't have deserved the satisfaction of having the match completed.
 

blablavla

Legend
Actons speak louder than words though. Just give the obviously ailing kid a game, it won't hurt you as he's in no condition to make use of it. That would be sympathetic.

The retirement was lame for sure, but nevertheless in a way just, as Djokovic wouldn't have deserved the satisfaction of having the match completed.
nah, if you start giving a game here, a game there, there is a risk of losing the killer instinct
and he can be sympathetic later, but on court it's all about winning
 

zvelf

Hall of Fame
Since when is retiring three games away from losing (when you can help it) appropriate etiquette?
Musetti won more games in this match than Djokovic did in that one.
You should get your facts straight before drawing these conclusions. Djokovic was not down 0-3 in that third set but 1-2. And Musetti's games won over 4 1/2 sets compared to Djokovic's 2 1/3 is irrelevant.
 

Tennis_Freak99

Hall of Fame
Actons speak louder than words though. Just give the obviously ailing kid a game, it won't hurt you as he's in no condition to make use of it. That would be sympathetic.

The retirement was lame for sure, but nevertheless in a way just, as Djokovic wouldn't have deserved the satisfaction of having the match completed.
Lol What stupid logic is this? Give him a game or 2? How does Djokovic know that Musetti won't gain momentum from those gifted games? He and anybody who wants to win should keep pressing harder.

Lol you just hate Djokovic, no point debating you anymore
 
I think it depends on how severe the cramps are. You can certainly stand at the baseline and try to return serve. But if you are really cramping up, you might have trouble reaching up for the serve. I don't think we should expect players to serve underhand rather than retire.

@Sport I know you are a chess fan, so I thought I'd mention you in particular, but anyone can weigh in. I mentioned on another thread today that @Steve0904's claim that Musetti might not know that the tennis etiquette is to play out the match is plausible because in chess the etiquette is to resign if you know you can't win, rather than to make your player play out the last five or ten or 15 moves that are a formality. I've been thinking about the reason for this difference in etiquette.

Part of it might be that professional tennis is a spectator sport, and so the crowd would not get their money's worth if people retired when they know they can't win rather than playing the match out. I suppose it is the case that in a friendly game, you'd be under no obligation not to retire at 0-4 in the fifth when exhausted, and even in an amateur tournament, your opponent might appreciate the extra rest.

But professional chess is also a spectator sport to some extent, as fans of The Queen's Gambit will know from seeing crowds watching the games. Why doesn't it cheat the crowd out of the end of a game? At the highest level, a grand master might know they are beaten by another grand master but even an intermediate or high-level amateur audience might not realize and might learn something from seeing the game played out so that they can understand why the grand master was in an impossible position. Moreover, in chess, the chances of a player being so exhausted that they'd harm themselves by playing out the game are much less. They would not be cramping, for example.

Anyway, just a thought on the oddness of those etiquettes. If anything, it would make more sense for the pro tennis norm to be to resign if in an impossible situation and the pro chess norm to be to play the game out, given that the chess players have less to lose physically.

But, of course, etiquette - like all social conventions - isn't something that has to make logical sense.
 
Can anyone imagine Nadal or Djokovic stop fighting until the last point? (The same goes with Federer although my point is not to discuss his controversial retirement from this RG)
Actually Musetti has a nice game and he may have made an error partly because he’s young.
But he will have to change his mindset if he wants to climb to the highest level.
Yes. Yes I can.
 

RelentlessAttack

Hall of Fame
Well Novak also had an undiagnosed allergy holding him back, despite which he managed to with the 2008 AO and become #3 in the world. I think that’s a little different than retiring from something controllable through work like not having the stamina to finish.
no he didn’t. He said he doesn’t have celiac disease, he claims to have non celiac gluten intolerance and it’s not clear that that’s a real thing
 

blablavla

Legend
I think it depends on how severe the cramps are. You can certainly stand at the baseline and try to return serve. But if you are really cramping up, you might have trouble reaching up for the serve. I don't think we should expect players to serve underhand rather than retire.

@Sport I know you are a chess fan, so I thought I'd mention you in particular, but anyone can weigh in. I mentioned on another thread today that @Steve0904's claim that Musetti might not know that the tennis etiquette is to play out the match is plausible because in chess the etiquette is to resign if you know you can't win, rather than to make your player play out the last five or ten or 15 moves that are a formality. I've been thinking about the reason for this difference in etiquette.

Part of it might be that professional tennis is a spectator sport, and so the crowd would not get their money's worth if people retired when they know they can't win rather than playing the match out. I suppose it is the case that in a friendly game, you'd be under no obligation not to retire at 0-4 in the fifth when exhausted, and even in an amateur tournament, your opponent might appreciate the extra rest.

But professional chess is also a spectator sport to some extent, as fans of The Queen's Gambit will know from seeing crowds watching the games. Why doesn't it cheat the crowd out of the end of a game? At the highest level, a grand master might know they are beaten by another grand master but even an intermediate or high-level amateur audience might not realize and might learn something from seeing the game played out so that they can understand why the grand master was in an impossible position. Moreover, in chess, the chances of a player being so exhausted that they'd harm themselves by playing out the game are much less. They would not be cramping, for example.

Anyway, just a thought on the oddness of those etiquettes. If anything, it would make more sense for the pro tennis norm to be to resign if in an impossible situation and the pro chess norm to be to play the game out, given that the chess players have less to lose physically.

But, of course, etiquette - like all social conventions - isn't something that has to make logical sense.
Med recently won a match in spite if cramping
Sampras won that Davis Cup decisive set in Moscow on clay in spite of cramps
 

yossarian

Professional
Well Novak also had an undiagnosed allergy holding him back, despite which he managed to with the 2008 AO and become #3 in the world. I think that’s a little different than retiring from something controllable through work like not having the stamina to finish.

Its mental too with Musetti, no one really has much left in the tank in the 5th. It’s why the 5 set match is one of the most difficult mental and physical tasks in sport: you have to be mentally tough enough to keep going when you are fatigued and exhausted despite what your opponent is doing.

Im still a fan of the kid and his game. Hopefully he learns a few lessons from this: manage energy and don’t redline and wear yourself out after 2 sets, put in more conditioning work, and work on mental strength primarily.
Does anyone know if he actually has celiac disease? Because as far as I know, his diagnosis was made by testing is muscle strength while holding a piece of bread on his stomach
 
Lol What stupid logic is this? Give him a game or 2? How does Djokovic know that Musetti won't gain momentum from those gifted games? He and anybody who wants to win should keep pressing harder.

Lol you just hate Djokovic, no point debating you anymore
It's perfectly sensible as a competitor, just don't complain about lAcK oF sYmpAthY then.
 

Kralingen

Hall of Fame
Does anyone know if he actually has celiac disease? Because as far as I know, his diagnosis was made by testing is muscle strength while holding a piece of bread on his stomach
Real celiac disease is a lot more painful that it seems Djokovic had. If you had a sandwich at lunch you could be feeling intense internal pain for hours on end and if you drink a few beers you’re on the toilet with bleeding stool the next morning. I seriously doubt he would have been able to win a Grand Slam while eating all that gluten if he had celiac disease.

I think his gluten intolerance was interfacing with his asthma.. I can’t find the article right now but it was more to do with his circulatory system while the digestive system is the main one affected by Celiac
 

RelentlessAttack

Hall of Fame
Not to sidetrack the thread, but gluten intolerance is a thing. Ask an allergist.
As I said, it’s not clear that non-celiac gluten intolerance is a real thing, read the studies. The findings are mixed and because of the subjective nature of the symptoms it’s hard to design good studies anyways.

There are people who feel better if they cut out bread and other similar products, that doesn’t mean the gluten is the problem or that it’s a medical condition that makes the difference between contending for the retirement slam and suddenly being much fitter than the fittest player in history.
 

skip1969

G.O.A.T.
As I said, it’s not clear that non-celiac gluten intolerance is a real thing, read the studies. The findings are mixed and because of the subjective nature of the symptoms it’s hard to design good studies anyways.

There are people who feel better if they cut out bread and other similar products, that doesn’t mean the gluten is the problem or that it’s a medical condition that makes the difference between contending for the retirement slam and suddenly being much fitter than the fittest player in history.
Well, my doctor says it's a real thing. I remember it distinctly . . . the day he gave me the diagnosis.
 

Raul_SJ

G.O.A.T.
If anything, it would make more sense for the pro tennis norm to be to resign if in an impossible situation
0-4 deficit is not impossible to overcome. A million players have overcome that deficit.

Extremely unlikely Musseti pulls this out given the cramps. But the scoreline itself is not insurmountable. And who is to say that his cramps do not suddenly improve.

That is why you finish it out for five more minutes barring serious injury. Retirement at the last moment is the very last resort.
 

skip1969

G.O.A.T.
Djokovic was bashed to no end when he retired matches during his younger days by a lot of people. I am not gonna debate whether he deserved it or not but it'll be double standards of the highest order if the same people show sympathy towards Musetti
I always side with a player when he/she retires.

for some players it may be mental, for others more physical. i don't think you can make a blanket assumption about them all. i think the level of fitness for the pros is extremely high. sure, there are players who could be fitter, but that's always the case. but i think that some of them just can't take the pounding and the grind of the tour today. look at someone like cljisters who says she wants to retire at the end of this year. she's always been considered super-fit, flexible, chasing after every ball . . . and yet she wants to retire from the game because of the toll it's taking on her body.

and i don't think she's wrong for looking out for herself, her health, her future, her life AFTER tennis. sometimes, you have to do what the circustances force you to do, whether you want to or not. especially if your health is at stake. i'm recovering from a sports accident that i had last fall. i had surgery on my knees, tendons . . . been in rehab since january 2 (and i STILL can't walk up a flight of stairs). if my doc told me, "no more tennis for you" i'd be pissed off, but i know it wouldn't be as bad as the four months i just spent in a friggin' wheelchair!

djokovic has/had some sort of heart/breathing problem or something like that. maybe it makes him a little quick to throw in the towel during a tough match. but if he collapsed and died out there, everyone would be saying, "god, what an idiot. he should have just retired if he wasn't feeling well." so you see, we can't have it both ways. either we trust the players to make the best judgement under the circumstances, or we don't.
I wrote that 15 years ago almost to the day, in defense of Djokovic, a player I didn't even like all that much.
 
0-4 deficit is not impossible to overcome. A million players have overcome that deficit.

Extremely unlikely Musseti pulls this out given the cramps. But the scoreline itself is not insurmountable. And who is to say that his cramps do not suddenly improve.

That is why you finish it out for five more minutes barring serious injury. Retirement at the last moment is the very last resort.
0-4 plus cramps is basically insurmountable, especially when the previous sets were so one-sided, too. He was probably hoping he'd get a second wind for much of sets 3 and 4, but it didn't happen.
 

zvelf

Hall of Fame
Actons speak louder than words though. Just give the obviously ailing kid a game, it won't hurt you as he's in no condition to make use of it. That would be sympathetic.
Putting this in context, it would have been insane for Djokovic to give away a game to Musetti. When was Novak supposed to do this? In the 4th set when Djokovic was actually losing the match on the whole? That would have been monumentally idiotic. In the 5th set when the match is on the line when you have at most a 3-0 lead? That would have been monumentally idiotic.
 

skip1969

G.O.A.T.
The lesson here is not that "no mas" is acceptable. Tennis is not boxing so "no mas" is not applicable unless seriously injured which he was not.

The lesson here is that retirement only draws more attention to yourself. Finish it out.

Follow the 100 years of well-established tennis etiquette.
Isn't that whole "play through the pain/tough guy" ethos is counterproductive? Why should it be tradition or "100 years of well-established tennis etiquette" that compel a player to suffer needlessly on court? Shouldn't each player be given the luxury of deciding for him/herself how much abuse they are willing to endure on the day? For a match that they know they cannot win?

Again, I'm quoting myself from 2006 just to show that I trust in the individual players to be able to decide for themselves when to retire. Because I remember feeling the same when Djokovic was criticized.
djokovic has/had some sort of heart/breathing problem or something like that. maybe it makes him a little quick to throw in the towel during a tough match. but if he collapsed and died out there, everyone would be saying, "god, what an idiot. he should have just retired if he wasn't feeling well." so you see, we can't have it both ways. either we trust the players to make the best judgement under the circumstances, or we don't.

i'll tell you what, it's hard to think about "what's good for the game" if you end up permanently injured, or your career is shortened . . . or you're dead. (i know i'm exaggerating some, but you get the point). you've got to keep things in perspective. tennis is a part of life, but it isn't life itself.
 
Putting this in context, it would have been insane for Djokovic to give away a game to Musetti. When was Novak supposed to do this? In the 4th set when Djokovic was actually losing the match on the whole? That would have been monumentally idiotic. In the 5th set when the match is on the line when you have at most a 3-0 lead? That would have been monumentally idiotic.
When Musetti had 40-15 on serve while 0-4 down in the fourth set. Let's not pretend that would have changed the match flow lol.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Barring serious injury, tennis etiquette required him to stand on the court for five more minutes. Follow the 100 years of well-established tennis etiquette.
How come Djokovic never followed this tennis etiquette? He quit in the middle of 6 slams and a total of 13 tournaments. And his cultists here continue to whine, moan and froth at the mouth over Fed this week.... he's never retired in a single match in 23 years.

The irony is epic.
 
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