Tennis: Pioline defaulted for abuse

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The Independent Online
IF NOTHING else the Nottingham Open is providing some extraordinary pieces of self-destruction. Hard on the heels of the top seed, Marcelo Rios, losing in a manner that could most kindly be called limp, Cedric Pioline went out of the rain-hit tournament yesterday for swearing at the umpire.

It was a sharp deviation in character by the normally mild-mannered 29- year-old Frenchman who becomes only the fourth man to be defaulted in singles since 1996 and the first in this country since the American Jeff Tarango was thrown out of Wimbledon for similar verbal abuse three years ago. It was also needless.

Pioline, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, lost his rag over, of all things, a missed call for let. His opponent Scott Draper, passed him down the line and although the Frenchman complained, he managed another serve and another lost point to go love-40 down before saying something more to the umpire, Chile's Pedro Bravo.

This time Bravo suspended play and, after calling the tournament supervisor Gerry Armstrong on to Centre Court, the fourth-seeded Pioline was defaulted for a verbal obscenity. The score, for what it matters, was 6-3, 2-1 in Draper's favour, the last point awarded by the umpire as part of a punishment that will include forfeiture of prize-money, zero ranking points and a fine that will be announced today.

"I have had a conversation with Cedric since and I'm clear in my mind what the umpire said happened did happen," Armstrong said. "That level of verbal abuse would have resulted in a similar punishment in any sport, whether it was basketball, football or whatever.''

Neither Armstrong nor Pioline would say exactly what words were used but confirmed they were in French. Unfortunately for the player, Bravo, who is from Chile, has a working understanding of the language.

"The umpire made a mistake. He missed a clear net," Pioline said afterwards, claiming he had been harshly treated. "I can't remember what I said to him but when you get pissed off you don't send flowers. You are not happy, they are not nice words."

The outcome was surprising for the Australian winner as it was for the loser. "I thought it was a let, too," Draper, who won at Queen's last week, said.

Draper, who is the world No 73, and now has an unblemished grass court record of seven wins out of seven this season, also believed a warning would have been enough punishment.

The outburst sprang from a match that had been innocuous in nature and remarkable mainly in that it was allowed to go ahead despite light rain. Pioline, who volleyed five times into the net in the first two games, lost his first serve which was the decisive moment of an opening set that was halted once due to the weather. The second set, too, was hardly explosive until Pioline's verbal volley.

The default at least had a positive effect in providing the one singles result of a day that again was badly disrupted..