PARIS: French tennis player Mathieu Montcourt, who came through the junior ranks with Rafael Nadal, died on Monday night at the age of 24, the French Tennis Federation said on Tuesday.
Montcourt was found by his girlfriend outside the door of his flat at around 1.00 am, Patrice Dominguez, the federation's technical director, told Reuters. The cause of death is unknown.
"It's inexplicable," said Dominguez, one of the last people to see Montcourt alive. "He was at my house last night with my son Mathieu, who he was very close to. He was fine."
"They watched a film. He came round on his bike and cycled home as he often did," he said.
Montcourt had just begun a five-week ban for gambling on other players' matches, although he was cleared of influencing the outcome of any of the matches.
Nadal, the four-times French Open champion and world number two, posted a message of sympathy on his personal website (www.rafaelnadal.com), saying he was shocked at the death of Montcourt, who was 119th in the ATP world rankings.
"This morning I woke up with the worst news anyone can receive," Spaniard Nadal said. "I heard about the death of our friend Mathieu Montcourt. I am still under shock for this. I can't believe it.
"I knew Mathieu since we were kids. We competed together at all the events at international level since we were kids and afterwards since becoming professionals.
"When... something like this happens, you really know where you are and the relative (importance) of winning or losing a tennis match, of not competing at an event or anything else..
"I would like to send my most deep and sincere condolences to his family, to his friends and to the French fans."
The French Federation said Montcourt was an "enthusiastic and passionate young man who was very engaging and extremely well-liked".
International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Ricci Bitti also offered his condolences.
"We were very sad to learn of Mathieu Montcourt's death at such a young age," he said in a statement.
"As a junior, Mathieu enjoyed great success on the ITF junior circuit, where he was a strong competitor and a popular player. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
Montcourt was banned for eight weeks in August last year by the ATP, the governing body of men's tennis, for gambling on other players' matches but the suspension was reduced to five weeks by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in May.