Tennis player Mathieu Montcourt, ranked # 119, was found dead outside his Paris apartment at about 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. Preliminary autopsy reports show that the 24-year-old player suffered a cardiac arrest. Further tests for any drugs or medicines in Montcourt’s body have been carried out, with results expected this weekend. (via Reuters.)
His colleague Rafael Nadal – who had played with Montcourt since their junior days – was one of the first to respond publicly, via his website: “This morning I woke up to one of the worst news anyone can receive. I heard about the death of my friend Mathieu Montcourt and I am still in shock, I can’t believe it.”
Part of the close-knit French Tennis Federation (FFT), Montcourt’s colleagues – “Les Blues” – are understandably shocked by his unexpected death. (My translation via L’Equipe unless otherwise noted.)
Laurent Recouderc: “It’s just impossible. We cried together, cracked up together, traveled the world, too many memories. A guy who never gave up. I’m thinking very much of his family, his girlfriend and his grandfather who loved him so much.”
Richard Gasquet: “C’est violent! I’ve known Mathieu since the age of nine. Everyone has their little problems, but when something like this happens, it puts it in perspective.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: “Mathieu and I shared the same room for two years, at INSEP [a high-performance training center]. We did so much together – he was full of ambition. Since this morning, whenever I think of him I have tears in my eyes.”
Sébastien Grosjean: “My thoughts are with his family in these hard times. He was a really nice guy and a very hard worker. It’s really sad. I trained with him many times over the past few years.”
Fabrice Santoro: “He was truly a good person and I don’t know what else to say. It’s very sad.”
Alize Cornet: “I am extremely shocked by the passing away of Mathieu. Honestly, I haven’t fully realized yet that he is no longer with us, that I will no longer bump into this really nice boy that I was in the habit of seeing at certain tournaments. I’d like to express my support during this terrible ordeal to his family and those close to him. . .Rest in peace, Mathieu and courage to those that remain.”
Patrice Dominguez, the FFT’s Technical Director and possibly the last person to speak to Montcourt (Montcourt had spent the evening at his home), said that the hard-working player had top 50 potential: “He is a player we considered could get into the top 50 or 60 within the next two years. He was someone who was really well liked. He was someone who was always one of the best under 12s, best under 16s, best juniors. He was always a fighter, and was a player we liked to watch.” (via CBS Sports)
Mélanie Maillard, a psychologist with the FFT, gives some insight into his personality: “He was an original par excellence – with a big “O” – courageous, unique. His family called him “Matou” like a cat who is sweet but can also grab its opponent in his claws. For quite some time he said that luck was maybe turning in his favor.”
Montcourt, who lost to Radek Stepanek in the second round of this year’s French Open, had since played in four Challenger level events, including a semi final effort in Rijeka, Croatia last week. Perhaps he was trying to play as much as possible before this Monday, when his five week suspension for betting on matches went into effect. The Court of Arbitration for Sport found that Montcourt had wagered a total of $192 on 36 tennis events in 2005. Montcourt claimed that he never bet more than $3 on a match, and never on his own matches – his statements were confirmed by the ATP (via CBS Sports)
Obviously Montcourt’s death is very sad, regardless of the timing, but it does seem unfair that he’s now the “player who died while banned for betting.” Especially since the infractions were minor.
SI’s Jon Wertheim also points out how “downright creepy” it is that Montcourt is now the second tennis player to recently suffer an untimely death after being banned for betting. Italian player Federico Luzzi was suspended for much of 2008 for gambling on matches, and was diagnosed with leukemia upon returning to tour in October. He passed away soon after. Players including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer paid tribute to Luzzi at the Rome Masters event this April.