London, July 8, 2009 — -- The tennis world is mourning the death of French player Mathieu Montcourt, who died suddenly this week at the age of 24.
Montcourt, ranked No. 119 in the world and who reached the second round of the French Open last month, is reported to have collapsed on Monday night . His girlfriend raised the alarm when she found him in the hallway of his apartment building, lying in front of his door. Montcourt was pronounced dead soon after.
Tennis champion Rafael Nadal was one of the first to express his condolences. "This morning I woke up with one of the worst news anyone can receive," Nadal wrote on his Web site on Tuesday. "I am still under shock for this. I can't believe it." Montcourt and Nadal, also 24, knew each other since competing at the international junior level, and later as professional tennis players.
The cause of Montcourt's death is unknown. Reports in the French press have speculated that pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of the pulmonary artery, may have taken the athlete's life. But radio RMC reported that the French squad doctor was following Montcourt regularly, and that the athlete was in good health.
Montcourt was entering a bumpy stretch in his career as his five-week ban from competition kicked off on Monday. He was found to have gambled on other player's games over the Internet last summer.
Originally banned from the circuit for eight weeks, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced his suspension to five weeks after determining that Montcourt had not bet on his own matches.
Montcourt's teammates were shocked by the news of his death. "We shared a dorm room for two years," the world's No. 8-ranked player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, told newspaper L'Equipe. "Since this morning, tears come to my eyes each time I think of him." "It's violent," added Richard Gasquet, "I've known Mathieu since I was nine."
The French team's technical director called Montcourt a promising athlete, in full growth. "He was a hardworking player, serious and healthy," Patrice Dominguez wrote in a statement. "He was also a very kind boy, open and very curious."His coach, Jérôme Prigent, was not available for comment.
An autopsy was conducted on Wednesday morning. The French Tennis Federation said it will issue a statement once the results are known.