Zizou Bergs (ATP 131) was unable to qualify for the third qualifying round of Roland Garros on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Limburger lost in two sets against the Portuguese Frederico Ferreira Silva (ATP 225). And soon hate messages poured in, to the disbelief of dad Koen Bergs. “
Bergs hoped to secure a place in the Roland Garros main draw for the first time. He was aiming for a third Grand Slam participation, after Wimbledon 2022 and the Australian Open at the beginning of this year. The first round was always his final destination.
As if the disappointment wasn’t enough, the Limburger had to deal with online hate. Koen Bergs shared one of those horrible messages on his social media. “Yes, I am the father of Zizou Bergs and I am very proud of him. He is a fantastic young guy living his dream and working hard every day to achieve his goals. I hope this continues for a long time and has a long life ahead of it.”
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Koen Bergs wanted to make a statement to the haters. “This is very common, almost always after a loss. And those are often tens to hundreds of messages within an hour after the game,” said the Limburger in a response. “But it is the first time that Zizou’s family, me as a father, has received hate messages. We know how to deal with that and report it to the ITF. But given the commotion about Vinicius (the Real Madrid footballer who was treated racist in a match against Valencia, ed.) I think it’s a good idea to bring this to the attention again. I think this is as bad as racism in football.”
And the perpetrators are not far to find. “We know that these are gamblers who lose money and have lost all sense of realism, but we are human beings and – like everyone else – deserve respect and appreciation for the hard work we put in every day in all humility. Given the high number of responses I get, I notice that the world is also very indignant at this and still finds it abnormal. Good thing, too.”
The organizers of Roland Garros are offering tennis tournament participants a tool to protect themselves against hate on social media. The French tennis federation uses the AI technology Bodyguard, which filters out rude comments on social media. Zizou Bergs also uses this, but the tool is not watertight.
“We try to keep Zizou away from this, but we don’t always succeed. Roland Garros provided us with a filter software, but it doesn’t always work well. So he sees those messages now and then but has learned to deal with them without emotion and to ignore them. He has been trained for this by Tennis Vlaanderen and the International Integrity Cell of the ITF. We focus on what we are doing and know that those haters/gamblers are always malcontent.”