Interesting article, read this...man loses #1 world ranking over observing Yom Kippur
ITF Decision Prompts Protest From Litwin
By Richard Pagliaro
Bob Litwin's strength of competitive spirit helped carry him to the World Championships final. His commitment to observing a day of spirituality could prevent him from ascending to the top of the world rankings.
In the span of 20 days, Litwin produced some of the best tennis of his life, collecting 17 consecutive victories, capturing national singles and doubles championships and earning the top seed in the Men's 55 Singles at the 24th annual ITF Super-Seniors World Championships in Philadelphia the last week of September. The Glenwood Landing, N.Y. resident surrendered only one set in five tournament victories and was on the verge of attaining a life-long dream in playing for a world championship with a shot at securing the world No. 1 ranking.
It never happened.
The ITF Men's 55 Draw lists eighth-seeded Brazilian Thomasz Koch as a walkover winner over Litwin in the Men's 55 final. But to Litwin the circumstances surrounding the final that was never played left him feeling as if he been stepped on by bureaucracy that squashed his efforts to attain the world No. 1 ranking.
Litwin, who is Jewish, was scheduled to play the final on Saturday, September 25th — Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement that is the most important holy day of the Jewish year.
Litwin, who informed the ITF in an email in March that he could not play the final on the last Saturday of September as it coincided with Yom Kippur, asked ITF tournament officials on site if they would consider rescheduling the final for either Friday or Sunday.
"On Thursday after I won the quarterfinals I went into the ITF office and said 'Remember me? I'm the one who sent the email five months ago that I couldn't play the final on Yom Kippur.' And the person who responded to the email was in the room," Litwin said. "So we're close to the final at that point. I said: 'If I should win tomorrow (in Friday's semifinal), I will not be able to play that day. I will default the final. Is there some possibility you would consider speaking to the other guy and asking if he would be willing to play Friday afternoon or Sunday?' They said 'Okay, do you want to talk to him, or do you want us to? I said 'I think its inappropriate for me to talk to them before the matches.' Because at this point there were three other semifinalists left in the tournament."
In the final four, Litwin, who did not begin playing tournament tennis until the age of 33, surprised himself by beating fourth-seeded Armistead Neely, 6-4, 6-4. Koch defeated seventh-seeded Hans Adama Van Scheltema, 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the final. Following his semifinal victory, Litwin said he again asked ITF officials on site to consider rescheduling the Saturday final.
"Before that Friday semifinal, I went out thinking if I win I'm sure I won't be playing this final. So I wasn't really concerned and I won," Litwin said. "I had never beaten him before and frankly to me he was the favorite. He's a legend. I go into the ITF office after the semifinal and I said 'So? Did you speak to Thomasz Koch about playing the final today or Sunday?' They said 'Oh, his match is over?' People start running around looking for him. He's obviously showered and left. So then I said 'Why don't you call him?' So they call the hotel and he's not there. They said 'We can't reach him. It (rescheduling the final) is not gonna happen.' Meantime, an official from the club made three phone calls and found him. So it couldn't have been that difficult to find him."
Litwin believes ITF officials did not contact Koch to ask if he would agree to reschedule the final and without Koch's consent, the final remained scheduled for Saturday, essentially ensuring Litwin's default.
"Honestly, I don't know if Thomasz Koch would have done it or not, but from what I've head he's a great guy and a great champion and he probably would have played it (on a different day)," Litwin said. "You speak to 10 players at this level and six would probably say 'I'd agree to play that match in a second.' It was really horrendous the way it was handled."
Litwin's protest is not based on the fact the ITF declined his request to reschedule the final to another day, but on the fact that the ITF ruled it will not award Litwin the ranking points and prize money he earned in winning five singles matches to reach the final. It is a ruling that effectively nullifies the week's worth of wins Litwin earned and one he says "feels discriminatory".
"Here is the greatest day of my tennis life and now they're telling me for all that work and effort you're not going to get all those points, which very possibly could have made me the number one ranked (55-year-old division) player in the world," said Litwin, a tennis coach who has his own web site for mental training FocusTips.com. "As a tennis coach that's a huge label for me to have. Without the points, I'm ranked 15th or 20th. So basically they're saying to me 'A medical reason — no problem you'll get your points. But a religious reason, you will not get any ranking points.' I am a Jew and this is our holiest day of the year and my whole life I haven't done anything on this day. I am beside myself that they have made a ruling like this that on the one hand is unfair to me personally, but in the bigger picture it feels discriminatory to me."
Emerging from the shower after his semifinal, Litwin said he was met by an ITF official who essentially rendered the ruling by handing him two sheets of paper — xerox copies of the ITF rules regarding withdrawals.
"The ITF referee comes in and hands me a piece of paper which is a copy of two pages of the ITF regulations — the section on player responsibility," Litwin said. "Basically, it says any player who leaves the site prior to the scheduled match without a medical excuse will not be awarded any prize money or ranking points. So now they were saying 'this is what is happening.' At that point, I was really angry."
The ITF states it was simply following its rule regarding defaults — a rule the ITF points out Litwin was well aware of months before the tournament began — and stresses Litwin was informed in writing five months before the event that should he reach the final, he would be scheduled to play on Saturday, September 25th.
"The rules of the event state that, if a player fails to appear for a scheduled match for a reason other than injury, health or bereavement, they receive no prize money or points," an ITF spokesperson told Tennis Week. "Mr Litwin was aware of this rule and, in response to a question raised by him in March 2004, he was informed in writing by the ITF that, should he reach the final, he would almost certainly have to play on Saturday."
In an email to Litwin, an ITF official wrote: "There are many factors that the ITF must take into consideration when scheduling these events and while there is no desire to conflict with any significant religious days, it is not always possible to achieve this. The ITF would like as many people as possible to participate in these events and so it is not in our interest to schedule them at the same time as these events either... Unfortunately at this stage nothing can be done to avoid Jewish players to play on Saturday 25 September."
While the ITF's email states the final cannot be rescheduled, it does not address the consequences a default would incur.
Litwin believes the rule is discriminatory in that he had withdrawn citing an injury — even if wasn't a severe or legitimate injury — he would have received both ranking points and prize money, but because he withdrew for a religious reason, and was honest in stating it, he not only forfeited the final, but the ranking points, prize money and a potential position as the world's top-ranked man in the 55s.
"I said to one of the ITF reps there, 'You know I can get you a medical note saying I'm hurt from any of the 10 doctors here on site, but I would never do that'." Litwin said. "What I am going to do, lie on Yom Kippur?"
Personal pain has given way to protest as Litwin has filed an official letter of protest with the ITF over its ruling. The ITF told Tennis Week it has received and reviewed Litwin's protest and is currently conducting an investigation on the matter before rendering a final ruling.
"The ITF have received a letter of appeal regarding this matter from Mr Litwin," an ITF spokesperson told Tennis Week. "In response the ITF have confirmed to him in writing that they will investigate the matter and respond to him in due course. The event referee and the ITF official representative have been asked by Luca Santilli, Manager of Senior Tennis, to prepare a detailed report on Mr. Litwin's withdrawal from the event. Once all views have been carefully considered, the ITF will respond directly to Mr. Litwin."
Litwin feels let down by organizational officials unwilling to reassess an existing rule in the context of a competitor's religion. For Litwin, it's not just a matter of spirituality, it's a question of common sense.
"I don't think it's anti-Semitism," Litwin said. "I want to be very clear on that point: I don't it's anti-Semitism at all; I think it's just stupid
I guess most of the finals were scheduled for Saturday, and as men's 55 final was the 'biggest' match of the day, I could understand that they didn't want to re-schedule it. On the other hand, it's an amateur event and crowd interest was probably not that huge, so they could at least have ASKED his opponent if he agrees on it.