Kazakhstan tennis player Alexander Bublik has received widespread criticism after appearing to make an insulting slur about people with disabilities during his US Open match.
Bublik, the 25th seed in New York, was staring down the barrel of a first-round defeat by 2020 champion Dominic Thiem on Monday when he allegedly made the comment.
Thiem has spent the best part of two years struggling with injuries, and his win over Bublik was his first at a grand slam event since January 2021.
Bublik was visibly frustrated with his performance, and was heard speaking in Russian on court: “I am f—— sick of giving careers back to invalid people.”
The Russian word for “invalid” can be translated as either disabled, sick or injured, and many on social media including Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios took issue with Bublik’s comment, accusing him of using discriminatory language.
Kyrgios – who is absent from New York through injury – retweeted a tennis influencer who shared the clip of Bublik. Appearing to react to Bublik’s shocking words, Kyrgios added the caption: “This is low-key horrible.”
Bublik’s 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 loss to Thiem came in the same season as he’s suffered defeat against other perennially injured players, including Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka.
Bublik is often a fiery and controversial character, known for underhand serves, incurring hefty fines for tanking matches, and angry outbursts. Earlier this season he smashed three racquets in quick succession on court in France.
After Monday’s lop-sided result to Thiem – which even saw Bublik hit four double faults in one game – some questioned his effort.
When asked about Bublik’s comments after the match, Thiem said: “It’s a tough saying. Something you shouldn’t say in general, out of respect. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way.”