Dear Dominic. This is the beginning of the emotional open letter addressed to Thiem, number three in the world, the 21-year-old and 620th-ranking Algerian tennis player, Ines Ibbou. It is his response to the Austrian's refusal to contribute to the aid fund for players with lower rankings, who live daily in many cases and who are at risk of premature abandonment due to the absence of competition due to the COVID pandemic. -19. Ibbou reads it in a video with images of his career in which he asks the finalist of the last Australian Open “respect” for “sacrifices” What these tennis players do who survive among the top and the juniors and / or semi-professionals, a group to which the North African belongs and that depends largely on the relief program that the tennis governing bodies have launched (ATP, WTA, ITF and the four Grand Slams). “Players like you make me hold onto my dream. Please don't mess it up,” Ibbou begs.

The truth is that Thiem was tough commenting on an initiative that started from their own top-100 teammates, led by the Big Three that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic form. “None of these poorly ranked players is struggling to survive.”Dom replied in an interview from Kronen Zeitung. “Throughout the year, I see many who don't give everything to tennis. Many are not very professional. I don't see why I should give them money”he insisted.

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Ibbou's video, in which he narrates the complicated vicissitudes of his evolution in the sport of racket, is shocking. So, for its depth and interest, we reproduce here the full content of his words:

“Dear Dominic, after reading your last statement, I was wondering what my career would have been, and therefore my life, if I had been in your place. I imagined what it would have been like to have parents who were tennis teachers when I played a racket. For the first time, at the age of 6, I immediately fell in love with her. As I grew up on the outskirts of Algiers, in a very modest family, with parents who had absolutely nothing to do with the world of tennis, I cannot avoid thinking I might have had help. But I don't blame you.

And I stopped thinking about it, because after all, we didn't choose where we were born. Now I realize how lucky I am to have parents like mine, that I love more than anything and that I would not change for anything in the world. You know, in a country like mine, it is not easy for a woman to be a top athlete. I cannot thank my parents enough for their support and all the sacrifices they have made in order to pursue my dream.

If you only knew, Dominic …

At least you can count on local facilities. Oops! Did you know that ITF youth tournaments are very, very rare in Algeria and that there is not the slightest ITF, ATP or WTA tournament? That there is not a single coach on the international circuit? That there is not the slightest covered court? I don't know how it was for you, but for us, there, it rains for a week, we work our reverse … in the gym. And I'm not even talking about the quality of the facilities or the courts … We didn't even know what surface we were playing on. Is it grass? Is it clay? “Africa”, as they say.

But don't get me wrong. That didn't stop me from building my own path and being one of the best players in the world at 14 years old. I earned my first WTA points by earning 10,000 at the same age. Pretty impressive, right? Like you, I reached the top of the junior ranking. Not in the top 10, the 23rd in the world. Not bad for an African woman, is it? It was so unlikely that many journalists called me “the tennis miracle.” It is not a joke! Very few young Africans have done it before me, they said. And none in my country. If I had been in his wizarding world at the time, he probably would have attracted the attention of many sponsors and the federation would have taken care of me. But it did not happen that way. Sponsors, you say? Adidas? Nike? Wilson? Prince? Head? They don't even exist in Algeria! In addition to some local small business teams and support, I only received the minimum to cover my participation in the Junior Grand Slams. And you know, in Africa, the budget for an athlete rarely ends up in his bank account, if you know what I mean … I was wondering what might have changed for me at that time if I had been in your immediate circle.

If I had shared the same environment, the same rules. How to decide when is the best time to enter the professional circuit. No one knows anything about it in Algeria. If I had a reasonable budget, what impact would it have had on my career? It would have changed my whole life! I appreciate the day when I can give my parents a gift. I dream of this day … The best player in the country, at the top of the junior ranking, but not a penny in his pocket. It's ironic, don't you think? I am not sure that this would have happened in your country or in any other European. But that didn't stop me. When everything was falling apart and pushing me towards the end of my career, I was lucky to receive a helping hand. People who cared for me, who provided me with basic necessities: food and a place to sleep. Some helped me by providing free equipment, others with physical labor. My situation was hopeless. But I got back on the right track and managed to get past the professionals. Unfortunately, I was injured at the worst possible time. By the time the ITF changed its rules. I'm not sure if it really affected you … Financial resources are the key to getting fit. I really could see it then. But then again, it didn't stop me. Despite all the difficulties, I managed to get back to the WTA ranking. Today I am 21 years old and I am in the 600th place in the world. I still hope to make the dream come true for which I sacrificed my childhood, my education, my adolescence, my family life, my friends, my money, birthday, holidays, all my life!

Dominic, let me ask you: What is it like to give a gift to your parents? What is it like to see them more than once a year? Celebrate your birthday with them? I don't even remember the last anniversary I celebrated with my loved ones … Yes, all these sacrifices are part of the game, but what happens on the track must decide the outcome of my career, not my financial resources. It is totally unfair. I treat it every day, without complaining. I fight constantly, in silence.

Dear Dominic, unlike you, many share my reality. Just a reminder: It is not thanks to your money that we have survived so far, and no one asked you for anything. The initiative came from generous players who immediately showed compassion, with class. Players who want to spread solidarity and find solutions to change things. Champions in all circumstances. Dominic, this unexpected crisis plunges us into a delicate period and reveals the true nature of people. Helping players is helping tennis survive. This game is noble.

The meaning of sport is to distinguish the most talented, the most tenacious, the most hard-working, the bravest. Unless you want to play alone on the court? Dominic, I told you, we didn't ask you for anything. Except for a little respect for our sacrifices. Players like you make me hold on to my dream. Please don't mess it up.

Ines Ibbou ”.


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