Tennis world in shock as Montcourt found dead

PARIS: French tennis player Mathieu Montcourt, who was recently banned for betting on matches, has died. He was 24.

The French tennis federation said yesterday that Montcourt died overnight but the cause of death is not yet known, and an autopsy will be conducted.

French media reported the 119th-ranked Montcourt was found dead by his girlfriend in the stairwell of his Paris apartment. In May, Montcourt was handed a five-week ban and fined $12,000 for betting on other matches. That ban took effect Monday.

"It is with great sadness that the French tennis federation has learned of the sudden death of Mathieu Montcourt," the French tennis federation said. "Mathieu was an enthusiastic young man, passionate, very endearing, and extremely appreciated for his kindness and politeness.''''

Four-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal grew up playing against Montcourt on the junior circuit.

"This morning I woke up with some of the worst news anyone can receive," Nadal said on his website.

French tennis federation''s technical director Patrice Dominguez said yesterday that Montcourt''s girlfriend became alarmed when Montcourt failed to arrive.

"She was with a friend in Mathieu Montcourt''s apartment,'''' Dominguez said. "They came out after a while, having left him messages, and noticed that he was lying on the floor next to his bike ... They called the (ambulance), but unfortunately he was already dead.''''

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Montcourt had wagered a total of $192 on 36 tennis events in 2005. It reduced his suspension on appeal from eight weeks to five.