Brazilian player Guilherme Clezar was fined $1,500 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Saturday for making what appeared to be a slit-eyed gesture in a Davis Cup tie in Japan.
The 24-year-old had earlier issued an apology but denied any racist intent following an incident during his defeat by Yuichi Sugita on Friday in Brazil’s world group playoff against the hosts in Osaka.
After successfully challenging a line call in the third-set tiebreak, an exasperated Clezar stretched his eyes in an apparent criticism of the line judge who made the ball call.
The gesture was caught on local television and the ITF has subsequently decided to hand down the fine for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after the footage was reviewed by the tie referee.
The player insisted he had not meant to insult Japanese people in a post on the Brazilian tennis federation’s Facebook page.
“I want to underline that I never had the slightest intention to be aggressive, racist, prejudiced or anything of the type against Asian people,” said Clezar, who lost the opening rubber 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 before Brazil fell 2-0 down in the tie.
“We have been extremely well received here and I have an excellent relationship with all tennis players from many different countries on the circuit,” he added.
“Even though I didn’t mean any prejudice, I recognise the gesture doesn’t ring true with the attitudes of respect, enthusiasm, solidarity, emotion and many other things that sport means to us and I want to express my regret and my most sincere apologies.”
Clezar, who also issued an apology from his Instagram account, is ranked 244th in the world and mainly competes on the Challenger tour.
Japan took a stranglehold on the Osaka tie after Go Soeda followed Sugita’s win over Clezar by squeezing past Thiago Monteiro with a nervy 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 victory.
With Japan on the brink of returning to the Davis Cup world group, however, typhoon rain washed out Saturday’s doubles rubber.
Japanese pair Yasutaka Uchiyama and Kiwi-born Ben McLachlan are now set to face Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares on Sunday, weather permitting.
English Premier League football club Chelsea were forced to issue an apology in July after social media posts by Brazilian winger Kenedy that insulted Chinese people during a preseason tour to the Far East.