Tunisian tennis player Malek Jaziri is facing possible sanctions after pulling out of an ATP match in Tashkent against Israel's Amir Weintraub under the orders of his home tennis federation, according to the player's brother.
The Challenger match had been scheduled for Friday, but Jaziri, who defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in the previous round, pulled out before it started citing a knee injury.
But according to the player's brother Amir, he was under orders from the Tunisian Tennis Federation not to play against an Israeli opponent.
"Malek received an e-mail from the federation asking him not to play against the Israeli player," Amir Jaziri told Shems FM radio station in Tunisia.
"I hope that this decision will not have serious repercussions on the future of Malek's sporting career."
Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the Tunisian Sports and Youth Ministry, Ahmed Gaaloul, said that the government in Tunis had no official position on the matter.
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"The authorities make no demands either on the federation or the players," he added.
"The ministry of sports and youth and its minister Tarek Dhiab did not order Malek not to play this game."
In Shanghai where the ATP Masters Series is holding a top-level tournament, a spokesman for the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) told AFP: "We're aware of it and are liaising with the ITF (International Tennis Federation)."
Both Jaziri and Weintraub are members of the same tennis club in France - Sarcelles Tennis - north of Paris and have known each other for years through their sport.
The 29-year-old Jaziri is currently ranked world number 169 and could have risen to 135th had he won the tournament in Tashkent.
The president of the Sarcelles tennis club where the two players are members, Jonathan Chaouat, said that he had spoken to Malek Jaziri on Thursday night and that the player had been upset he would be unable to play the match.
"He explained to me that he could not play the match and when I asked him where the pressure not to play was coming from he replied 'my country.'"
"What is certain is that it was not Malek who decided not to play this match. Malek was taken hostage."