Nalbandian hits out after kicking out brings final to bloody end
Argentine criticises ATP after Queen's disqualification leaves fans frustrated
David Nalbandian has rarely given the impression that he ever went to charm school and last night the 30-year-old Argentine became embroiled in the biggest controversy of his career when he was defaulted from the final of the Aegon Championships for injuring a line judge.
Having just had his serve broken by Marin Cilic, Nalbandian kicked an advertising panel sited just inches in front of a line judge, Andrew McDougall, whose leg was badly cut by the splintered wood. Tom Barnes, the Association of Tennis Professionals supervisor, promptly disqualified Nalbandian for "unsportsmanlike conduct" and awarded the match to Cilic.
Nalbandian will not receive his prize money, which as runner-up would have been more than €44,945 (about £36,100), or ranking points. With the points he would have earned he could have climbed high enough up today's updated ranking list from his position at No 39 to earn a seeding at Wimbledon, which begins in seven days' time. He also faces a fine of up to $10,000 (about £6,360) and possible disciplinary action following post-match criticisms of the ATP.
The former world No 3, who was once defaulted from the Wimbledon junior tournament after arriving late for a match, is no stranger to controversy. He can be prickly in his dealings with the media and at this year's Australian Open was fined 8,000 Australian dollars (about £5,100) for throwing water over an official following a match in which he had had a heated argument with the umpire.
Nalbandian apologised yesterday for hurting the line judge and accepted his punishment, but insisted: "Sometimes you get angry. Sometimes you cannot control those moments. Maybe you throw a racket or maybe you scream or maybe you do something like that. So many times that kind of moment happens. But everybody makes mistakes. When somebody else makes a mistake, they have to pay in the same way. Players don't feel [that is the same] with the ATP."
He complained that players had to comply with ATP rules even if they did not agree with them. "You don't have a chance to ask, to tell, to change something," he said. "Sometimes the ATP puts a lot of pressure on the players and sometimes you get injured because you play on a dangerous surface and nothing happens.
Asked whether this was the worst moment of his career, Nalbandian said: "It's a very tough one."
A tournament which had been regularly interrupted by rain and suffered with early defeats for its main attractions was enjoying a hard-fought final when the incident happened after Cilic, who had lost the first set on a tie-break, broke serve to lead 4-3 in the second. Nalbandian, chasing a ball wide to his forehand in vain, carried on running and lashed out at the wooden panel in frustration.
Many spectators did not see what had happened and were unaware of the supervisor's decision. There were boos and jeers from the crowd of more than 6,000 and chants of "Play on! Play on!" It was probably the closest this genteel part of London has ever come to witnessing a public disturbance.
Even at the presentation ceremony no explanation was given for the early finish. The closest the crowd came to being informed was when they heard Nalbandian's post-match television interview.
Barnes, an ATP supervisor for 22 years, said that because of the injury to the line judge, who was given medical attention but did not need any stitches, he had no option but to default Nalbandian. He said the ATP might look into the Argentinian's post-match comment but added: "He's South American, very emotive. You're going to say things in the heat of the moment. I think you have to give the guy a chance to let off some steam there. He didn't intend to do what he did. He intended to kick the box, but he did not intend to hurt the guy."
Cilic said it was "definitely not the way I wanted to win", while the tournament director, Chris Kermode, who said Nalbandian felt "devastated", regretted that the crowd had not been kept informed. "Anyone who saw it on the television, it was very clear," he said. "It's like a red card in football: you're off. I think some sections of the crowd didn't see how bad it was. In the heat of the moment we were trying to get messages out, but it was very difficult to do it that quickly.
"I can understand the crowd's frustration. They paid money to see it. It was the best weather day we've had and great tennis. It was all going very well, so I can understand their frustration. But from a rules perspective, there was absolutely no other choice."
Roger Federer's Wimbledon preparations took an unlikely turn when he was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by 34-year-old Tommy Haas in the final of the Halle Open. Federer was aiming to win the German event for the sixth time and had beaten Haas, the world No 87, nine times in a row over 10 years.
Tantrums and thrown rackets: Players hit by ultimate sanction
John McEnroe: At the Australian Open in 1990 McEnroe was given a warning when playing Mikael Pernfors for intimidating a lineswoman. He was then docked a point for smashing a racket and defaulted after abusing tournament supervisor Ken Farrar.
Tim Henman: Henman and his doubles partner, Jeremy Bates, became the first players to be disqualified at Wimbledon in the Open era after Henman accidentally hit a ball girl in the head with a ball in 1995.
Jeff Tarango: The American was given a code violation at Wimbledon in 1995 when he told the crowd to shut up while playing Alexander Mronz. Tarango then went on to rage at the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, and defaulted himself by walking off.
Stefan Koubek: The controversy-friendly Austrian was defaulted at the 2000 French Open after he threw his racket, which hit a ballboy, during a match against Hungary's Attila Savolt.
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