Italian tennis star Fabio Fognini blamed the searing Tokyo heat for incessant use of a homophobic slur in his Olympic men’s singles loss to Daniil Medvedev Wednesday.
The 34-year-old repeatedly referred to himself in Italian as an anti-gay slur. He defended himself on Instagram Thursday, claiming the temperature, which reached nearly 34 degrees Celsius, messed with his brain.
“The heat went to my head!,” he wrote on the platform, against a rainbow background. “In today’s match, I used a really stupid expression towards myself. Obviously I didn’t want to offend anyone’s sensibilities. I love the LGBT community and I apologize for the nonsense that came out of me.”
Fognini was kicked out of the U.S. Open in 2017 after he was accused of yelling obscenities in Italian at a female umpire.
Medvedev also struggled with the heat during the match at Ariake Tennis Park, telling chair umpire Carlos Ramos he could finish the match, “but I can die. If I die, are you going to be responsible?” Afterwards, he blasted a reporter who asked him if Russian athletes carry a cheating stigma due to the International Olympic Committee banning the country from the Games over a state doping scandal.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s best player, called the Tokyo conditions the “worst” in 20 years of playing tennis. In response, officials have moved start times to later in the afternoon.