ITF has no problem with players who can't speak English

Updated: August 27, 2008, 9:59 PM ET
Reuters

NEW YORK -- There are 50 countries represented at the U.S. Open, but tennis organizers said on Wednesday they do not have a problem with players unable to give interviews in English -- unlike the LPGA Tour.

[+] EnlargeRafael Nadal
Li Yan/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal spoke through a translator his first couple years on tour but now conducts interviews in English.

Nick Imison, director of communications for the International Tennis Federation, said there has been no need for the sort of initiative taken recently by the women's golf tour requiring players to be able to speak English.

"There isn't an issue at this year's U.S. Open of players not speaking English, and those that don't speak English fluently still attempt to speak enough English to be able to conduct press conferences in that language," he said Reuters.

The WTA Tour said in a statement that it is "not considering any language program along the lines of what has been reported for the LPGA."

Gina Clement, a senior communications manager for the WTA, added: "It has not been an issue. The girls seem to pick up English pretty quickly."

Golfweek magazine reported that South Korean golfers were told at a mandatory meeting last week that from 2009 all players who have been on the LPGA Tour for two years must pass an oral English test or face a suspension.

There are 121 international players from 26 countries on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour, including 45 from South Korea alone.

"For an athlete to be successful today in the sports entertainment world we live in, they need to be great performers on and off the course," LPGA deputy commissioner Libba Galloway told the New York Times.

Russian world No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko, who tries his best to conduct post-match interviews in English, is sympathetic to athletes struggling with a new language.

"If you're pressured to say you need in two years to speak Russian or speak Chinese, what can you do? You can't," Davydenko said after his first-round win on Wednesday against Israel's Dudi Sela. "Some guys, it's difficult."

Newly crowned world No. 1 Rafael Nadal of Spain, for instance, spoke through a translator in his first couple years on the tour but now conducts his interviews in English.

"I know you need to speak English. I know I need to speak with everyone familiar in English," Davydenko said. "But maybe we need also translator."

Imison said the players understand the importance of communicating to the media.

"All these players, to a man or woman, have realized that it's important to them both personally and professionally to speak English," he said. "By attempting to speak even rudimentary English at the start, they've gained in confidence to the extent that they no longer need translators."

Imison said there was one men's player in the Open who required a translator.

"Probably the only exception that I know this year is Lee, ironically the one Korean in the draw, who has never spoken English," he said.

Lee Hyung-Taik, however, will not require special attention. Lee, 32, lost his first-round match to Italian Andreas Seppi.