Maxime Hamou, an up-and-coming tennis player, has been removed from the French Open and could face further punishment after repeatedly kissing and almost choke-holding a female reporter, who interviewed him live following his first-round loss Monday.
“The management of the tournament has decided to revoke Maxime Hamou’s accreditation following his reprehensible behavior with a journalist yesterday,” the French Tennis Federation said in a statement. The federation said it will review the incident before deciding on further sanctions.
The 21-year-old Frenchman, ranked No. 287 in the world, won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw of the Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, before losing to Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in the first round, when he was interviewed by the Eurosport reporter Maly Thomas.
The interviewer stood by Hamou’s side for a better camera angle, at which point he placed an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. As she asked innocuous questions about his post-match routine, Hamou attempted to kiss and nuzzle her neck, but she rebuffed him. Seconds later, he repeated his gesture, by which point Thomas, clearly uncomfortable, pushed him away, and attempted to wriggle from his grasp. The tennis player, however, continued to firmly hold Thomas by the neck in what resembled a chokehold.
“If it had not been live on air, I would have punched him,” Thomas, 28, told the Huffington Post. “These situations are trivialized and should not be.”
Hamou, who would have been entitled to enter the Roland Garros stadium for the entire fortnight of the tournament before having his accreditation withdrawn, has said that he was simply “overflowing with enthusiasm.”
“I want to offer my deepest apologies to Maly Thomas if she felt hurt or shocked by my attitude during her interview,” he told the French sports daily l’Equipe. “I just lived a wonderful week here in Roland Garros living my most beautiful emotions as a tennis player, and I let my overflow of enthusiasm express myself awkwardly towards Maly, who I know and sincerely respect.”
He added: “Nothing of all that is written was my intention. I am at her disposal to apologize to her in person if she so wishes. I learn every day from my mistakes to become a better tennis player and a better person.”
Hamou had previously attracted attention for arguing with an umpire, and walking out of an interview when faced with a question he disliked.