Star defends ‘disgusting’ ballgirl request
A French tennis player who was rebuked at the Australian Open for asking a ballgirl to peel his banana has defended his peculiar request - saying it was OK because she had already performed the task for him earlier in the match.
Elliot Benchetrit, 21, was scolded by an umpire during his qualifying match at Melbourne Park against Kazakhstan's Dmitry Popko, after asking the girl to peel his fruit.
Footage of Benchetrit's odd request led to a wave of criticism on social media and Today co-host Karl Stefanovic also chimed.
"That is pretty rank isn't it, asking a ballgirl to peel a banana?" Stefanovic said on Tuesday.
"Asking a ball-person to do that is disgusting. I think it's terrible."
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova hit out on Twitter, praising umpire John Blom for stepping in and setting Benchetrit straight by telling him his request had overstepped the mark.
"What's next, grapes?" Navratilova wrote as she retweeted a video of the incident. "#Entitlement. John did the right thing, that's for sure."
But Benchetrit claims the situation was overblown - as the girl had performed the same task for him at the beginning of the match with no objection.
"At 6-5 in the final set, during the changeover, I asked the ball girl to peel the banana for me as I had put some cream on my hands in order not to sweat," Benchetrit said, according to CNN.
"But the second time the chair umpire stepped in and told me that the ballgirl was not my slave and I had to peel the banana myself."
Benchetrit said he was stunned by the comment and believes the ensuing backlash was unwarranted.
"I could not believe that the umpire said that and I find incredible how this situation got out of control on social media without people knowing what really happened on court," he said.
Benchetrit won his qualifying match despite the banana incident, then went on to lose in the first round of the year's first major on Tuesday to Japan's Yuichi Sugita.
The incident brought back memories of American CoCo Vandeweghe at the 2018 Australian Open when she blew up about the lack of bananas available to her during her first-round loss to Timea Babos.
"How are they not on court? I mean, c'mon that's not my fault," Vandeweghe said during an argument with the chair umpire at Melbourne Park two years ago.
"I have needs and it's not my fault that this court is ill prepared."
Bananas were once again in the headlines at the Australian Open after Benchetrit's viral smackdown, as Nick Kyrgios joined in some fruit-throwing fun on Tuesday night.
The Aussie defeated Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-1) to advance to the second round and after his match, cleaned up the area surrounding his chair on Melbourne Arena.
The Aussie appeared to get a little carried away at one point as he tossed his official gear and towels into the screaming section of crowd directly behind the umpire's chair.
Having thrown away everything he could, Kyrgios even tossed a banana peel to a lucky fan, who appeared even more excited than those spectators sitting around him that scored free towels.
Kyrgios, however, wasn't in the mood to talk about his kind gestures in his post-match press conference and scoffed when asked by a reporter to explain the decision.
"You've got to do better than that, bro," Kyrgios said. "Is that a serious question? Oh my god. Next question."
With the New York Post