Nishikori was set up to hit a short ball down the line for a winner, as Carreño Busta headed to the opposite side of the court to try to defend the higher-percentage shot.
The ball was called out. But a focused Nishikori finished the shot anyway.
Carreño-Busta’s Hawkeye Challenge determined that the ball was, in fact in. But for all of the complaints when a chair umpire decides to replay a point in those circumstances, in this case Sweeney arguably did the right thing. He determined that Nishikori would have won the point regardless.
Sweeney had to make that judgment call in real time. But even on replay, it was virtually impossible that Carreño Busta would have suddenly stopped, changed direction in no man’s land and tried to track down Nishikori’s backhand down the line.
He made the right call in difficult conditions. But from Carreño-Busta’s overheated, exhausted perspective, he was screwed either way. Either the ball was out – and he lost the point. Or the ball was in – but the point would not be replayed.
Still, most of his wrath came from a place of pure exhaustion. Five hours and five minutes, and a defeat that came after Carreño Busta led Nishikori two sets to none.
Carreño Busta was emotional when he got to his press conference – undoubtedly the best-attended Pablo Carreño Busta press conference outside Spain … ever.
“Obviously I’m very sad, no, because after five hours fighting, after five hours’ match, the way that I leave from the court wasn’t correct, and I’m so sorry, because that’s not (me). I try to leave faster as possible when I lost that last point, because I know that in any moment I lost the head,” Carreño-Busta said.
“But it’s tough, no, to me to leave Australian Open like this, because I think that I played really good. I play an unbelievable match. Also Kei, he play really good, and that’s sad to leave like this.”
Carreño couldn’t really wrap his head around the fact that he was going to lose the point – either way.
But of course, had he been the one with basically an open-court forehand for a winner in a fifth-set deciding tiebreak, he wouldn’t have been of the opinion that the pointed needed to be replayed.
Social media statement
“I want to apologize for the way I left the court tonight at the Australian Open. Obviously it was a totally unfortunate reaction on my part and out of place. It’s hard to explain the frustration you feel after fighting for five hours on the court and what happened, happened. I am aware that there is no justification for my reaction and that is why I would like to apologize to the audience and all the people who have followed me on television. Thank you for the messages of encouragement I have received and know that Pablo Carreño is the player who was on the court for five hours and not the last five seconds.”
The first question to Nishikori – the marathon man of this Australian Open – was about the drama.
The Japanese star set that straight fairly quickly.
How did you feel about that point in the tiebreaker, taking up so much attention from such a marathon match?
“Well, that was important point, too, but, I mean, you should ask how I came back from two sets down. That was only one point. I mean, maybe affect him, but, you know, he took some time and maybe it could affect me. I mean, I’m really glad how I came back. Yeah, I don’t even know how I come back but very happy to win today.”
MELBOURNE, Australia – The look on Yulia Putintseva’s face as she walked off the court after a tough three-set loss to Belinda Bencic did not necessarily presage what was to happen next.
But it appears the gears were grinding in there.
The Swiss and Aussie Bencic fans certainly were … refreshed by this point of the evening.
And chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani did ask them, in the middle of the third set, to be fair to both players.
But they weren’t THAT bad. We probably saw five worse crowds today alone.
Nevertheless, as Putintseva exited the court after two hours and 45 minutes and a 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 defeat that stung, she had a little routine prepared for those who would cheer against her. (Putintseva had her own cheering section, too, although it was smaller.
(Thankfully, at that point, the accordion music had stopped after going through an entire discography of Russian and Greek folk music that added a rather … bizarre soundtrack to the thing).
First, Putinteva did the “Shame on you” finger wag for a bit.
Unconvinced the crowd was paying adequate attention, she did it for a good while.
She kept at it.
But at this point, she’s clearly contemplating a finger switch.
And she now has the crowd’s attention.
Ahhhh, the heck with it. Let’s let it fly …
And she did for awhile – double-fingered at times – all the way out between the two sets of stands on Court 20.
Check out some of the (circled) faces when they realize what she’s up to.
The match was pretty good, too.
Meanwhile, Bencic hiked herself over the fence without even using the gate. That was an impressive feat in itself, after that marathon.
And the fans piled on (her fans are REALLY polite. And she thanked them for asking her for selfies. The utter civility of it all was rather in stark contrast to the previous five minutes).
Then Bencic met up with her father and her boyfriend and basically laughed all the way back to the main building.
NEW YORK – We will never know if the outcome of the second-round match between Nick Kyrgios and Pierre-Hugues Herbert would have been different, had high-profile umpire Mohamed Lahyani not intervened.
But he did. And not for the first time with a player struggling on court.
The 23-year-old Aussie was down a set and 0-3 in the second.
And after a fairly … pedestrian effort in that third game, he sat down.
And Lahyani came down from his chair to dispense what could best be described as a pep talk.
At worst, you could describe it as some on-court coaching – from a most unlikely and inappropriate source.
UPDATE: The USTA came out with another statement just before the start of play on Friday, confirming what everyone except them had already figured out. That’s really all they needed to do in this case.
“He said he liked me”
“We all know I had that moment in Shanghai where the referee said the same thing, It’s not good for the integrity of the sport, doesn’t have a good look. It happens in other sports, too. In soccer, if someone is being roughed, they get warned. If you keep doing this you get penalized. Same sort of thing,” Kyrgios said.
“I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me. I’m not sure if that was encouragement. He just said that it’s not a good look,” he added. “Look – I wasn’t feeling good. I know what I was doing out there wasn’t good. I wasn’t really listening to him, but I knew it wasn’t a good look. It didn’t help me at all. Like, I was down 5-2. If it was 3-0, and maybe if I would have come back and won six games in a row, fair enough. Didn’t help me at all.”
Kyrgios is splitting hairs because although the turnaround wasn’t immediate, it was comprehensive. From being a set and 2-5, the Aussie lost just four more games in the next 2 1/2 sets to advance 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-0 and set up a meeting with No. 2 seed Roger Federer.
Had he played for the next half hour the way he had played in the first set and a half, it might well have been over in straight sets against a solid opponent. Or maybe not.
“I felt I played probably some of the best tennis I played in the third and fourth sets. My intent was a lot better. I was just more involved in the match,” Kyrgios said, pointing to the difficult weather conditions that got a little better after the first set and a half.
His next opponent, Federer, said Lahyani needed to stay put in his perch.
“It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair. But I get what he was trying to do. He behaves the way he behaves. You as an umpire take a decision on the chair, do you like it or don’t you like it. But you don’t go and speak like that, in my opinion,” Federer said.
“I don’t know what he said. I don’t care what he said. It was not just about, ‘How are you feeling? Oh, I’m not feeling so well.’ Go back up to the chair. He was there for too long. It’s a conversation. Conversations can change your mindset. It can be a physio, a doctor, an umpire for that matter.”
The USTA responds
The initial statement from the USTA, though, let Lahyani off the hook. There may be more to come as the various powers-that-be look at it more closely.
That doesn’t appear to jibe with that everyone watched.
Try to remember the last time you saw an umpire get down from his chair and go check the “condition” of a player.
Even if there’s an acute injury, they nearly always stay up in their chairs while the doctor or physio tend to the player and dispense appropriate treatment. And this was not an acute injury; it wasn’t an injury of any kind.
And there is music playing on changeovers at pretty much every tournament these days. So if Lahyani were to give Kyrgios a heads’ up that he might have to sanction him if he didn’t start giving his “best effort” – not a long conversation – he probably doesn’t need to get down from the chair and get in his grill.
It also, as far as we know, is not the umpire’s job to determine whether a player needs medical attention, or to encourage him or her to seek it.
As for the “treatment” from the physio on the next changeover, Kyrgios said in his press conference that there was no treatment.
“I didn’t call the trainer on. I just wanted some salt packets,” he said.
Lahyani has priors
Bernard Tomic in Sydney in 2016
Gaël Monfils in Valencia in 2011.
Something like what Ali Nilli did here, in Shanghai, when it was pretty blatant, would be more appropriate.
There was no getting down from the chair, no concern for his well-being. Just a pretty straight-up statement of fact.
Bad optics – especially in a wagering world
The point of all this is that while Lahyani – who is one of the better umpires out there, despite (and partly because of) his love for being part of the show – meant well, there are two players on the court.
If one player is seemingly intent on finishing his work day early – especially when he’s by far the higher ranked of the two – that’s all to the benefit of the opponent that day. For Herbert to make the third round of singles at the US Open is a big deal.
There is no on-court coaching on the ATP Tour, and no on-court coaching at all at Grand Slams. So if a player is flailing, it’s up to him or her to figure out a way to climb out of the abyss. That’s one of the beauties of an individual sport.
And in Kyrgios’s case, he’s been known to just throw in the towel before.
It is not up to the umpire to get involved in a way that could help one opponent – and thus by definition be a potential detriment to the other.
Here’s a relevant section in the list of a chair umpire’s duties (per the ITF):
In today’s climate, with betting on tennis the subject of a multi-million dollar investigation and at least a cursory effort ongoing to try to curb it, actions like this could make a chair umpire open to accusations that he was trying to help turn the match in Kyrgios’s favour.
That’s highly unlikely to be the case; few would doubt that Lahyani loves the sport and was coming from a good place. He just got carried away – again.
But it doesn’t matter what the intention was. Even the appearance of impropriety is not what the sport needs right now.
Herbert furious – but not at Kyrgios
So first off Layhani is a good man who genuinely cares about people. I really like him as a human….. he did something he shouldn’t have. This is behavior we should see more of these days. Unfortunately it was the wrong time/place for it. Selfishly I hope they go easy on him https://t.co/lwU63jVS3I
The first person Herbert was mad at was himself – for not closing out the second set when he had the chance.
“I don’t know where he was for the first two sets. I know he was on court after when he started playing, when he kicked my ass and was much better than me,” Herbert said of Kyrgios.
But he felt Lahyani had overstepped.
“I think Mohamed, he’s actually a really good umpire. And I think he knows everybody. I think he cares for Nick. He cares for the show also because people were going after the first set. Everybody was there for the start. When they saw Nick in a bad mood, I would say, for the first two sets, they started going away,” he said. “I don’t know if something happened, if Mohamed would have said something or not, it wouldn’t have changed anything. That I cannot tell you. I just can tell you from that point Nick was playing much better.
“Actually, the umpire doesn’t have to talk to him at all. The only thing he can tell him is, ‘Yeah, pay attention, because if you continue like this, I’m going to give you a warning’. Something like this. They can tell him from the chair. He doesn’t need to go down. He doesn’t need to say the words he said on the video. I think this was not his job. I don’t think he’s a coach, he’s an umpire, and he should stay on his chair for that.”
Herbert allowed that the pep talk may have had no effect at all – that Kyrgios is good enough that if he just decided to start playing, the result might have been the same. But we’ll never know.
Later, upon getting wind of the USTA’s statement, Herbert issued one of his own.
(We’ll translate the original French version here, because the English version is a little rough).
“Following my second-round defeat at the US Open against Nick Kyrgios, and all the controversy surrounding the actions of Mohamed Lahyani, allow me to give my version of events.
First thing, I didn’t hear the discussion between Lahyani and Nick during the match, and that event did not affect me personally.
For his part, Nick isn’t to blame because he didn’t ask for anything. What’s certain is that from that precise moment on, his behaviour changed. And after that, he pretty much dominated me.
However, after seeing the video, I’m angry at the umpire, who shouldn’t get down from his chair to talk to Nick to try to get him to listen to reason. Did that action have an impact? We’ll never know …
I’m even angrier about the USTA’s press release, and with the tournament management that is playing us for fools – trying to convince us that the umpire absolutely did not overstep his job description, while his words are audible on nearly every video.
To err is human but I await explanations – if not sanctions. When we players cross the line, we also face sanctions.
Social media and cheerleading to end the day
Next up, Kyrgios will have Roger Federer to prepare for.
But after going on social media and giving some people some stick (including some he should probably leave alone) and receiving some in return from Andy Murray, he went out to play the supportive boyfriend.
I shouldn’t have tweeted so quickly after the match. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I can assure you it wasn’t coaching. https://t.co/hvlwPyzC0E
If there is one moment in Genie Bouchard’s tumultuous career that, all on its own, turned a lot of tennis fans against her, it was the handshake.
Rather, the non-handshake. And then, the non-handshake sequel.
So as the 24-year-old from Montreal returns home for Fed Cup this weekend, in the lineup for the first time in three years, the exercise in watching grass grow that is the Friday draw ceremony – especially the part where the prospective opponents shake and smile for photos – will become a flash point.
You wouldn’t want her to swung and miss for strike three.
Currently ranked No. 117, Bouchard has enough challenges this weekend.
She will try to kickstart a tough season and post one, ideally two, victories against Ukraine for herself and for her country.
If Canada can’t take the tie, it would have to go back down to the zonal competition in 2019.
And on the other side, despite the absence of Elina Svitolina, there are two very solid, experienced players in Kateryna Bondarenko and Lesia Tsurenko to try to stop them.
The Genie Show
The draw ceremony takes place Friday, at noon, at a downtown Montreal hotel. And the handshake moment likely won’t be the only awkward part of the event.
Bouchard hasn’t really met the local Montreal media since the Rogers Cup in the summer of 2016. It’s been an eventful 20 months.
And there were no opportunities through the week, or at least since Bouchard arrived from California on Wednesday.
New Fed Cup guidelines have removed the obligation of all team members to attend at least one pre-draw press conference during the week.
If the concept was to somehow “lessen the load” in a bid to encourage the top players to play more often, as was the case with the men, it’s a double-edged sword. (Plus, we’ll note that, unlike the men in Davis Cup, the women haven’t eliminated the rubber-chicken banquet on the Thursday night).
Fed Cup is such an afterthought here during the NHL hockey playoffs that the national sports network that owns the television rights isn’t even broadcasting it on television, only online.
So getting Bouchard out there in the media would definitely give the event a boost. But with a modest, 1,500 seat stadium setup, Tennis Canada has hedged its bets.
And so there has been no opportunity to get all the Bouchard “business” out of the way before the serious stuff of playing tennis begins.
Well, that’s not quite true. A group of young children were invited in for a “press conference” with her. Which is just making fun, really.
Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau stood in for Bouchard on Wednesday, talking about Bouchard.
All within the rules
No one, including Tennis Canada or Bouchard, is breaking any rules (there’s a fine of up to $10,000 if they do).
But what’s going to happen on Friday if past history is any indication is that in the only Bouchard media opportunity, the other three players will also be sitting up on the stage. And nearly every question will be directed to Bouchard.
And it will be awkward for everyone: her teammates, and the media.
Here’s what happened four years ago, for the Feb. 2014 tie against Serbia.
Along with that, all eyes will turn towards the Fed Cup draw board, and the official photos.
Flash back to April, 2014 and exactly a year later in April, 2015 (pardon the quality of the video; it was early days).
So the big question will be answered on Friday: will she, or won’t she?
Bruneau did tell Tennis.Life Wednesday that he likely would bring it up with her.
Will it be third-time lucky?
One thing’s for sure. Friday’s draw ceremony will have a little more spice than these things typically do.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Sometimes Hawkeye taketh away.
But Tuesday in the women’s doubles quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open, it gave back to Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and her Chinese partner Yifan Xu.
And, as a result, it took away from Maria José Martinez Sánchez and Andreja Klepac.
The Spanish-Slovenian pair thought it had won the match, 10-8 in the match tiebreak.
They were jubilant, having been down in the match tiebreak and seemingly on their way out of the tournament. They even shook hands with Xu at the net, because Xu also thought it was over even though she and Dabrowski had challenged the call on the final lob.
The replay looked inconclusive – until it zoomed in close.
And still, the ball looked probably in. Until they zoomed in some more, and the official call came.
“The call is overturned”
And still, Martinez Sánchez and Klepac celebrated. And Xu conceded. But Dabrowski was, well, “Hey, wait a minute …”
The chair umpire had announced that the call was overturned. But no one seemed to hear it, except Dabrowski.
Once he explained it to the players, and they replayed the point, Dabrowski and Xu saved the match point and went on to win the match, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 12-10.
Here’s what it looked like.
It was a pretty crazy ending. No, it was really crazy.
And Martínez Sánchez and Klepac actually took it pretty well, considering.
Dabrowski and Xu were emotional and in a post-match interview on court, Xu explained that she had come into the tournament with a back injury, and hadn’t expected any kind of result.
Tough road to the final four
The first two victories were over very tough teams, even if they were unseeded. Dabrowski and Xu got past Coco Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty in a match tiebreak after dropping the first set 6-1.
In the second round, they defeated Nicole Melichar and Czech veteran Kveta Peschke, 6-4, 7-5.
But now, they’re in the semifinals, where they will face another unseeded team: Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.
Dabrowski and Xu are coming up on a title defence in Miami, where they surprised everyone by taking the title. It remains the biggest of their career so far although Dabrowski has won two Grand Slams in mixed doubles.
The first order of business here is to ask the obvious question.
In what alternate universe did the men of a certain age who tend to decide these things within tennis federations think an old fool like Ilie Năstase was a good choice to captain a Fed Cup team?
Năstase, now 70, was the president of the Romanian Tennis Federation from 1997 to 2008. But his career as the country’s Davis Cup captain – that’s the menfolk – was brief. According to the Independent, the first tie of Năstase’s captaincy followed a similar pattern – minus the misogyny and inexcusably offensive comments.
He’s never been Davis Cup captain since. There has been little in his public history to indicate that he has evolved or gained any wisdom with age. It makes him somewhat of a sad figure. Most pertinently, it makes him inappropriate Fed Cup captain material. He never again captained the men. Why would they think he’s good enough for the women?
Long ago, Năstase was the greatest player in Romanian history. He was vulgar, tempestuous and offensive even then. Since then, he’s had four wives and by his own “conservative” estimate, some 800-900 conquests.
Early warning signs
Năstase was named captain last October. He took over for Alina Cercel-Tecsor, who seemed to be doing just fine but who of course didn’t have the same national profile. Really, does it surprise anyone that it took him a nanosecond to get himself in deep trouble?
In his first tie as captain in February, Năstase’s Belgian counterpart got the full treatment. Dominique Monami told Le Soir that he had insulted her. “That, as well, was a sign of weakness. I didn’t react. Năstase was there for his name, not his captain qualities, and we won,” she said.
On her blog, Monami elaborated. “I had a good introduction thanks to Ilie Năstase. A few minutes before, he told me he would never get married with me because I was not half of his age, so I used this as my introduction to break the ice, she wrote. “But we, Ilie and me, got along very well until the matches started. We got divorced a few times during the matches but finally we did shake hands.”
Captain Năstase was still on board for this weekend’s relegation tie against Great Britain.
It wasn’t the only offensive remark Năstase has fired Williams’ way in the last few weeks. Late last month Năstase was quoted by a Romanian media outlet as, well, basically accusing Williams of doping, pointing to her strong, powerful physique as “evidence”.
The International Tennis Federation, which doesn’t much like to work weekends, issued this statement Friday.
“We are aware of alleged comments made by Romanian Captain Ilie Năstase and have begun an immediate investigation so that we have the full facts of the situation before taking further and appropriate action.”
(Worth noting here that Năstase is hardly the first male Fed Cup captain of a certain age to go that route; Russia’s Shamil Tarpischev blazed that trail . Other than a monetary fine and a toothless WTA ban – Tarpischev doesn’t coach a player on Tour – Tarpischev suffered few consequences. Sense a pattern?).
More faux pas
That tone-deafness continued, and intensified.
Năstase made inappropriate remarks to his opposite number, Great Britain captain Anne Keothavong, during the official dinner and again at the draw ceremony. He touched her inappropriately; he probably made her skin crawl. But in such a public place, as a British representative and ambassador of sorts in a foreign country, there was little option but for Keothavong to be diplomatic
Once the tie began on Saturday, with British No. 1 Jo Konta facing Romanian No. 2 Sorana Cirstea, it disintegrated into public embarrassment.
Was he done? Hardly. Năstase then hurled insults at a female British reporter on site to cover the tie as they were removing him from the premises.
“The ITF has launched an investigation into this matter as well as previous comments made by Mr. Năstase during the week.”
British captain Keothavong alluded to the incidents involving the Belgians Saturday.
“Given previous history – I don’t want to point direct blame at anyone, but maybe it could have bene pre-empted, given what happened in the previous time when Romania took on Belgium and the issues they faced there, which I was aware of,” she said. “It would have been tough for anyone to control, and maybe he shouldn’t have been in the position that he was, but I guess it’s no longer now.”
Hey, buddy, want to be captain?
Curious as to how this could happen – indeed, how Fed Cup captains are predominantly male? It’s currently about a 2-1 ratio, with the top groups skewing the number and some recent progress having been made.
Take a look at this chart of the 100 Fed Cup countries for which captaincy data was available. Look at how many female national federation presidents there currently are.
Countries pick Fed Cup captains in various ways. Often it can be a “consolation prize” for a man who didn’t get the Davis Cup job. Sometimes, as with Năstase, it’s a famous male player from that country (Yannick Noah, in France, is another example). Sometimes it’s someone who is close to the federation president. The women who are chosen often have far superior resumés as players on their tour than many of the men have in their playing careers on the men’s tour. They basically have to.
There’s a skill set to coaching women, an expertise you don’t necessarily have just because you married one. Too rarely, it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean men aren’t perfectly capable of making decisions for women. They are. It just means that in tennis, they too often don’t.
Many national honors have been bestowed upon Năstase by male peers in his demographic who revere his sporting achievements. He was made a knight of France’s “Légion d’honneur”. Romania’s highest civil award, the Star of Romania, was awarded for his service to sport. He has been an elected member of the Romanian Senate since 2012. Năstase holds the rank of Major-General in the Romanian military. That speaks to his long-ago achievements and his close ties with the men of power in his country – not the least of which is billionaire Ion Tiriac, his lifelong friend and doubles partner.
Fine, let him look ridiculous wearing the uniform. Trot him out for ceremonial occasions. Have him show up to open your new hospital wing. Hang with him in the bar as he tells stories about Jimmy Connors and the good old days.
The fine athletes on Romania’s Davis Cup team deserved better from the men in charge of their national sporting destiny. His actions, most unfairly, will reflect both on them and on the country they love.
Those men in suits failed them. They failed women’s sport, too. Given the numbers cited above, it’s probably not the last time.
(Tennis update: the tie between Romania and great Britain is tied at 1-1 going into Sunday. By the way. Năstase won’t be there).
INDIAN WELLS – In the annals of tennis racquet destruction, American Ryan Harrison earned a place of honour Thursday night after a dramatic first-round loss to Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia on the main stadium at the BNP Paribas Open.
Harrison showed ingenuity, imagination, clear-headed thinking and impeccable technique as his Babolats took the brunt of his major annoyance at being eliminated from the Masters 1000 tournament in the first round.