reports from Paris
Daring an umpire to disqualify you can be a risky business, especially when 10,000 spectators are making it plain that they would be delighted to see it happen. Sergi Bruguera took that chance yesterday, and was allowed to survive to continue his quest for a third consecutive French Open title.
One player had already been shown the door at the tournament, Carsten Arriens paying the penalty in the first round for throwing his racket, which struck a line judge on the ankle. This gave the German the dubious distinction of being only the second player, after John McEnroe, to be disqualified at a Grand Slam championship in the Open era.
Bruguera's only punishment was the booing and whistling of a crowd incensed by his behaviour. The Spaniard refused to accept the umpire's decision on a line call, dragging the situation out for five minutes while his Swedish opponent, Magnus Larsson, tried to hold his concentration, still hoping to win a place in the quarter-finals.
Bruguera, leading by two sets two one, had seen one match point disappear, Larsson making a stop-volley after serving at 5-3 in the fourth set and then forcing a tie-break.
The Swede, having netted a forehand on the opening point to give Bruguera a mini-break, positioned himself perfectly in the left-hand court to swivel and drive a forehand to the far line.
As far as Larsson, the umpire, and just about everybody else in the stadium was concerned, the ball was good. But Bruguera demanded that the German umpire, Soeren Friemel, check the mark. The spectators jeered, and Friemel told the Spaniard that the ball had landed inside the line.
"The mark is there," Bruguera said. "Go and see the mark." Friemel repeated that the call was good and told him to play, at which point Bruguera told him: "You are cheating me; call the supervisor." When the umpire remained in his chair, the stubborn Spaniard said: "Default me, default me, it is my choice not to play."
He then leaned on the net, and eventually the umpire called for the supervisor, Bill Gilmour, and told him the call was good and that he did not need to check the mark. Gilmour went over to Bruguera, who by now was sitting in his chair, and told him: "It's the umpire's decision, it's his call. He's absolutely sure he's correct."
That being the case, the umpire ought to have invoked the three-step disciplinary procedure, warning Bruguera for time wasting after the stipulated 25 seconds between points, then giving him a penalty, and finally disqualifying him when he continued to refuse to play.
When play resumed, Larsson queried a call at 2-3. This time the umpire did check the mark, and decided in favour of Bruguera, who went on to win the shoot-out, 7-4, and the match, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6.
The Swede blamed the umpire for not taking firmer action. "Anyone can question the calls," he said. "You're allowed to do it. But if the umpire is sure that the ball is good then he shouldn't allow Sergi to take those five minutes. If he had given him a warning after 25 seconds, Sergi would have played for sure."
Bruguera said he asked for the supervisor because he thought it was obligatory for the umpire to check the mark. "It was very clear," he said. "He goes there, and if he thinks it's good, I play, and if it's out, it's a point for me, that's all.
"It was very tense in that moment, and sometimes you do things that you wouldn't do when you are calm. Maybe if it was close to a default, I would play, but I don't know. Suddenly all the people were against me. I think it's not that bad to fight for your rights."
Bruguera will play Renzo Furlan for a place in the semi-finals. The Italian, ranked No 61 in the world, made it a disappointing 21st birthday for Scott Draper, the Australian qualifier.
Draper played brilliantly to lead 4-0, 40-15 in the opening set, but the combination of rain and an overruled point appeared to break his rhythm, and he won only one of the next 13 points. Furlan went on to win 7-5, 6-1, 7-6.
Adrian Voinea followed up his victory against Boris Becker by defeating Andrei Chesnokov, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4, to become the first qualifer to advance to the quarter-finals for five years. He faces Michael Chang, the 1989 champion, who fought back to beat Michael Stich, 1-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.
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