It's not often that a qualifying match at a $25,000 challenger becomes newsworthy, but shocking events Monday in Versmold, Germany certainly deserve attention.
According to accounts from witnesses, 27-year-old Dutch player Elise Tamaela was attacked by Mihai Barbat as she cheered on compatriot Danielle Harmsen, the opponent of Barbat's daughter, Karen Barbat.
German player Scarlett Werner, who had been set to play doubles with Tamaela, was the first to report the incident, posting on her Facebook page (translated from German):
Incredibly, a father of a player has beaten my doubles partner and [she] is now in hospital. Whether we can compete in doubles tomorrow is in the stars. Hopefully she feeling better soon and this attack will be punished.
Sander Tamaela, Elise's brother, rushed from The Netherlands to Versmold upon receiving news of the incident.
He later wrote his account of the incident and of the injuries to his sister on Tennis Forum:
As the brother of Elise I can confirm the story... Elise has been attacked by the father of Karen Barbat whule [sic] watching her game. He was calling her names from the start of the game (all kind of racist things I'm not willing to repeat). After a while Elise said something about it, he then knocked her out with a punch and elbows to here [sic] temple. She immediately lost consciousness for about five minutes... After a while she was taken to the police station to press charges, the father and daughter flee, police still looking for them. At the police station Elise started the vomit continiously, an ambulance was called to take here to the nearest hospital. She's still on a intravenous drip with painkillers and needs to stay in the hospital till at least tomorrow morning (having a concussion and a bruised face)...
My father and I drove to Halle (where Elise is in the hospital) and are now in a hotel, we hope we can take Elise back to The Netherlands tomorrow...
The father/trainer of Karen Barbat will probably never see a (professional) tennis court again, that man is a true risk to all people around him!
Sander Tamaela also tweeted similar information about his sister's condition, writing that she is suffering from a concussion and facial swelling, and that the police are still hunting for both Mihai and Karen Barbat, who fled together.
The match did not continue beyond the incident. Harmsen was awarded the win, by the score of 4-2 (default).
Barbat, a 19-year-old from Denmark, has also been defaulted from her doubles match, which she had been scheduled to play with partner Julia Kimmelmann of Germany.
Though Karen Barbat has only reached as high as No. 474 in the WTA rankings, her father had already gained infamy on the tour for his behavior. During qualifying matches at the e-Boks Open in Copenhagen in August of 2010, a drunken Mihai Barbat was arrested in the parking lot outside Farum Arena, twice pulled from the driver's seat of his car to prevent him from driving while intoxicated.
Previous to that incident, Mihai Barbat had chosen to stop cooperation between his daughter with the Danish Tennis Federation.
Karen Barbat had also shown some unusual family dynamics in Copenhagen during the matches themselves, as her (then) 13-year-old brother Alex served as her on-court coach.
Barbat should found and prosecuted as soon as possible, punished severely for his actions, and never allowed to see a tennis court again. And, hopefully, his daughter is given the help she needs to rid herself of him fully.
But most importantly, best wishes to Elise Tamaela for a speedy and full recovery.
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