Wimbledon: David Nalbandian’s frustration heightened by umpire error
INFAMY, infamy, everyone has it in for David Nalbandian. Or at least that is what the Argentine seemed to suggest yesterday, after the former Wimbledon finalist lost in the first round to the eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic.
It was further punishment for the flashpoint at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s nine days ago, when he kicked the front of a three-sided sponsor’s advertising board. Unfortunately for both him and the gentleman sitting behind it, the board collapsed and cut said line judge Andrew McDougall’s leg.
Nalbandian was fined and had to forefeit his £36,500 prize money. He even revealed yesterday, following a rather lame defeat in straight sets, that he had been asked to give a statement to police. Perhaps most crucially, he also lost the 150 qualification points collected for reaching the final. It meant he was vulnerable to the kind of unkind draw which he was subsequently handed, against the powerful Serbian.
Due to the notoriety which is now attached to Nalbandian, the clash was an essential ticket yesterday, even outshining Novak Djokovic’s opening stroll against Juan Carlos Ferrero. A defending champion opening his campaign against a fading Spaniard, or a grumpy Argentine recently investigated about an on-court assault? No contest. The hairband had it, as it were. Nalbandian let no-one down.
Like rubber-neckers at an accident, we gathered to observe the outburst which was surely waiting to happen. Nalbandian is not a ball of fun at the best of times, so it was not surprising to hear him sound so dejected afterwards, and after a further display of bad temper. This time it was the umpire, Frenchman Pascal Maria, who had to dive for cover, although only metaphorically-speaking on this occasion.
Nalbandian had been angered when a call, in the eighth game of the second set, was overruled by the umpire, who pronounced a deep shot from the Argentine as out, when Hawk Eye proved it had been in. The umpire could not overrule his own call, however. Making things more heated was the finely-balanced nature of the match at this point.
“Are you going to overrule that one?” Nalbandian later sneered, as his mood darkened. He could not recover his composure and lost the second set on a tie-break, before slipping out of the tournament with a bit of a whimper in the third set, when he won only two games.
He could not complain about the level of support, that’s for sure. Wimbledon is a place where decorum and decency are guiding principles, and this holds true even for bad boys hailing from a place which will not feature in middle England’s list of favourite countries. And yet there was no evidence of Nalbandian having been installed as Public Enemy No.1. Reporters made sure they were in place well before the 1pm start time to examine his reception.
It was disappointingly polite. “Perhaps we should have booed him,” suggested one reporter.
Before Nalbandian’s arrival came the walk-on of the condemned men and women, those otherwise known as the line judges when the Argentine is in town. On they marched, and the only obvious extra protection on show were the hats to shield the sun from their heads. There were no All England Club-approved green and purple shin guards, certainly.
Two security guards positioned themselves behind the umpire’s chair, just in case any wooden perimeter boards got any funny ideas. Of course, there is nothing so vulgar as advertising hoardings at SW19, so the line judge sitting by the baseline when Nalbandian opened serve was safe.
The Argentine started off with an ace, too. All seemed well. The crowd even sighed sadly when shots of his found the net, and tried to raise his spirits as the match began to ebb away from him. “I always feel good here,” he said, a decade on from when he lost the final in straight sets to Lleyton Hewitt. “I like to play on grass, I really enjoy it every time I play here.”
Asked again about the incident at Queen’s, he put it down to “bad luck”, adding that it “can happen to anybody”. And what about the umpire who attracted his ire yesterday? Did he think everyone was against him? “All I know is that they never make mistakes when it is 15-all,” he said. “All mistakes are at very important moments. They have to be sure, 100 per cent.”
To be fair to him, he blamed himself for being left off the seeds’ list at Wimbledon. “I have been playing for six months,” he said. “If I am not seeded, it is not because of just one week. It is because of what happened in the half season that I was playing.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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