MELBOURNE – At 23, Pierre-Hughes Herbert unexpectedy found himself in the final of the Australian Open men’s doubles.
To say that this was the opportunity of a lifetime for all four players (opponents Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli also were unseeded) to put a Grand Slam title on their resumé would be to understate the case.
As it was, Herbert had issues with his foot throughout the tournament. Two cortisone shots before the semifinal, and a third on the day of the final, and he and partner Nicolas Mahut were going to give it a go.
They were warming up for the match, which was to be played after the women’s singles final, during the second-set tiebreak between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
And Herbert felt pain, and nature’s call. There was blood in his urine and pain in his urethra. He recognized it, because it had happened to him a couple of months ago during the French Interclub playoffs.
He received some antibiotics from the tournament doctor just a few minutes before going on court, but felt dizzy and wobbly and, basically, not much good.
The biggest moment of Herbert’s tennis career, and he couldn’t play. He and Mahut fell 6-4, 6-4.
“I had a problem. I felt sick 20 minutes before. I don’t know if it’s because was a final or if it was because anything. But after this I took some medicine because I couldn’t almost run or anything. I was really in pain. And when I started the match I felt dizzy the whole match,” Herbert said. “I had the feeling, yeah, it was maybe the worst minutes of my tennis career because I wanted to do everything for my partner, for everybody who was expecting something. And actually I couldn’t be 100 per cent. Yeah, maybe the worst minutes of my life on court because, yeah, so much pressure, and I couldn’t react.”
Herbert said it likely was a urinary infection.
Partner Mahut, the veteran of the team, tried to be supportive. But of course he was just as devastated.
“I think there were a lot of emotions for Pierre-Hughes. He had a foot injury, two injections before playing the semi-final. Two days of rest, no practice. A lot of things to manage. Another injection in his foot an hour before the final and he was taking the medication for that. And 20 minutes before the final he had this,” Mahut said, in French. “I tried to find the words, but it was complicated. I couldn’t have anticipated this at all.
“He wasn’t well. And after that, it went quickly. The team in front of us had a very high level.”
What a shame.