BEIJING • Germany's Andrea Petkovic apologised yesterday after she caused a furore by criticising the behaviour of Chinese fans at last week's Wuhan Open.
As an umpire tried to rein in spectators, an irritated Petkovic advised: "Say it in Chinese, not in English. The English (speaking) people know how to behave."
Footage of the incident quickly spread on social media, with some contributors accusing her of racism. But yesterday Petkovic insisted that she did not mean to be rude.
"I didn't mean it in general. I meant on tennis courts," she said at the China Open. "I think that's not a thing that is surprising because I wouldn't know how to behave in, let's say, a badminton match or a table tennis match because we don't have it in Germany that much.
"And I think tennis is a new kind of sport in China."
Chinese fans have sometimes taken time to learn the etiquette required at the top-level sports events arriving in their country, with complaints also heard at golf and snooker tournaments.
Petkovic said there was a marked difference between the Wuhan Open, now in only its second year, and the China Open in Beijing which started in the 1990s.
"The guards made some mistakes. They let in people during play, during rallies. That's not the type of behaviour we are used to, you know," Petkovic said, referring to Wuhan.
"It wasn't meant in a rude way, not at all. It was just meant in a way that, you know, they need to learn. I think they will because here in Beijing it's perfect after a few years of the tournament.
"If somebody took it in a wrong way, then I'm really sorry because I didn't mean to offend anybody."
The 28-year-old progressed to the second round of the China Open yesterday after Eugenie Bouchard's concussion nightmare continued.
The Canadian felt faint and tearfully retired in the first round.
Bouchard has not played since she slammed her head in a locker-room fall at the US Open, and she lasted just 10 games against Petkovic before feeling dizzy and having her blood pressure checked.
Bouchard sobbed into her towel and was comforted by Petkovic before she rose and walked out, waving grimly to the Beijing crowd, with the scoreline standing 6-2, 1-1 to her opponent.
Earlier Jo-Wilfried Tsonga refused to blame Beijing's notorious air pollution as he was also hit by dizzy spells before falling at the first hurdle 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Tsonga was down in the second set when he staggered on court and took a time-out, during which he had his heartbeat checked and was given medication. But it was not long before the out-of-sorts Tsonga limply succumbed.
The Chinese capital's air pollution was in the "very unhealthy" range yesterday but eighth seed Tsonga said he did not know if that was what caused his problem.
"I was like, dizzy. It came just like this, on one run. After one run, I went back to play a return and I feel a little bit dizzy. But I hope it's nothing important," he said.