Dominic Thiem was conducting his post-match press obligations after reaching the last 16 on Saturday and Serena Williams, who had just lost in straight sets to compatriot Sofia Kenin, was pushing organisers to give her a room right away to fulfil her media obligations as quickly as possible. The Austrian fourth seed has accused the former World No.1 of showing "bad personality" after his press conference was cut short to allow the American star to take over the main interview room at Roland Garros.
"I don't really get it, seriously. I mean, what the hell? No, but it's a joke, really … I have to leave the room because she's coming?" Austria’s Thiem told nearby journalists.
Although, the 23-time Grand Slam champion did not request for the 25-year-old Dominic Thiem to be kicked out, she was unwilling to wait for the Austrian to finish and the second interview room was also in use, leaving organisers in a difficult position.
“Put me in another room, a smaller one, but now” Serena said, without asking to be directed to the main room where Thiem was speaking. Organisers made Thiem move out and the Austrian exploded with rage as he was being treated like “a junior”.
The World No.4 told reporters on Sunday: “Actually, I wasn’t angry or frustrated. Maybe for a couple of minutes or so. It is just the principle. It doesn’t matter, if it is me who sits in there. I still made a wrong statement. I said that I am not a junior anymore.”
“But even if a junior is in there, every player has to wait. It is a matter of course. It also shows a bad personality in my opinion. I am a 100% sure Federer or Nadal would never do something like that.” Thiem added.
Three-time Roland Garros champion was not in the best of moods having been beaten by US compatriot Sofia Kenin in her earliest loss at a grand slam for five years. Serena’s quest to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title was thwarted again on Saturday when she was stunned 6-2, 7-5 by the 20-year-old Kenin in the third round of the French Open. Serena Williams was aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors.
"Yesterday was not my day. But it's about getting up time and time again after you fall. Here's to a multitude of tomorrows." Serena wrote on her Instagram account following her defeat to Kenin.
Swiss star Roger Federer was asked to comment on the issue
Describing Thiem as “a superstar", Roger Federer said he understood his frustration, adding that players who had won their match, as the Austrian had just done are usually given priority over those exiting the tournament. After his straight-sets victory over Leonardo Mayer, the 20-times Grand Slam champion became the oldest grand-slam quarter-finalist since Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.
“I think there is, with all the players, always a way to go that the one who is still in the tournament gets priority. Anyway, that’s how I see it, If I would have lost today against Mayer, I would let Mayer go first or decide when he wants to go to press as he’s got a next match. Now, there must have sure been a misunderstanding or maybe they should have kept Serena still in the locker room, not waiting here in the press centre. I understand Dominic’s frustration.” the Swiss star told reporters on Sunday.
French Open tournament director Guy Forget apologised to Thiem for the incident. All in all, his reaction caused amusement in the locker room.