Two American tennis players with a history of conflict had a lengthy argument during their New York Open match on Friday, which they followed with another exchange of words during the post-match handshake. That much we know for sure. Everything that came after has been disputed by both parties.
After the match, Donald Young wrote that he was “shocked and disappointed, Ryan Harrison, to hear you tell me how you really feel about me as a black tennis player.” Harrison quickly denied that allegation. The tour said it would conduct an investigation of the incident, reviewing all available audio and video and interviewing staff who were close by.
Today the tour released a statement on that investigation, per the New York Times’ David Waldstein:
The ATP conducted a full investigation into this week’s match at the New York Open between Ryan Harrison and Donald Young. All available evidence was reviewed including match footage and interviews with match officials and other tournament personnel who were in close proximity of the players. Unfortunately, the audio recording of the match footage did not pick up verbal exchanges between the players. At this time no evidence has been found to support the allegation that Ryan Harrison used a racial slur during the match.
Young himself did not specify that a racial slur was used. (A woman identified by reporter Andrew Jones as Young’s girlfriend said Harrison had made a dismissive remark using the phrase “That’s what all you black people do.”)
The Times also published an account from Michael Bruno, who worked as a ball person during the match. This was unusual, given that ball people are discouraged from speaking with the press. But Bruno, who said he generally prefers Young to Harrison because he is more approachable on the court, said he had to speak up because of the gravity of the accusation. “If I heard it, I would definitely vouch that it was said,” he said to the Times. “It’s not right.” Here is Bruno’s account of what happened during the match:
During its investigation, the ATP interviewed the umpire and the ball people and reviewed video of the incident, which shows Bruno standing behind Harrison. Audio of the exchange is unclear, but Bruno, who can be seen on the video drinking from a bottle of water and smirking, said he smiled because he thought the players were joking at first.
Harrison, he said, told Young not to audibly celebrate Harrison’s mistakes on the court, something that is considered poor sportsmanship in tennis. Young told Harrison to shut up, using an expletive. Bruno also said that Young leveled an abusive, nonracial, term at Harrison and challenged him to a fight. Harrison responded by holding his hand out, mocking Young for being short.
“Donald Young said, ‘Let’s take this outside, let’s fight outside,’ ” Bruno said. “Ryan kept saying, ‘You’re this tall,’ and kept gesturing with his hand, ‘You’re this tall, you’re this tall.’ ”
At that point, the umpire came down from his chair and separated the players. Later, Young took a bathroom break and Bruno said he heard the chair umpire say something to Harrison that appeared to be a warning.
“Harrison said, ‘You should really be addressing him and give him a talking to,’ ” Bruno said, “and that was that.”
At time of writing, no penalties have resulted from this incident.