Giving tennis more than a shot

Deserved Punishment


It was a normal Sunday final: two opponents hitting balls at each other, a veteran and a young gun who both surprisingly made it that far considering the strength of the field. The veteran had taken the first set in a disputed tiebreak, but the young gun was up a break in the second and had just been broken back. Then, in a flurry of mistakes, the young gun broke again. The veteran showed obvious frustration.


A normal Sunday final on the ATP Tour, so far. However, it wasn’t. The veteran is David Nalbandian and his gesture of frustration was one that might just have been one of his usual, as we know the Argentine is a hot-blooded fellow. This time, the object of his venting was not his racquet or the fence and he issued none of his usual curses. No. Today, he decided that an advertising box would be the target of his (normal) frustration.


The problem is that a linesman was sitting on a chair inside the advertising box and that the box did not survive Nalbandian’s kick of rage, broke, and hit the poor linesman on the leg, making him bleed.


That’s when Nalbandian realised he did something utterly wrong. He apologised profusely to the poor man, but the deed was done. Out came the ATP supervisor and, without any surprise, shortly thereafter came the verdict: David Nalbandian was defaulted and Marin Cilic was the AEGON Championships winner.


Here’s what happened, in video:



The gesture, I admit, was terrible. However, the injury to the linesman was accidental. Yes, David Nalbandian intentionally hit the advertising board, but he never, in any way, intentionally hit the linesman. That part was the accidental one and any media reporting otherwise doesn’t have their facts straights, if you looked at the video.


Nevertheless, it did not take much longer for all hell to break loose amongst fans of the sport, casual tennis watchers, and journalists alike. In the journalists’ case, it was the time for old grudges to just come out and for axes to be ground. Some actually went as far as venting their hatred at Nalbandian, calling him “the worst individual on Tour” or “the biggest jerk since Marcelo Rios”, and other like epithets.


I stop there to, again, reiterate that at no time, David Nalbandian intended to hit or hurt the linesman. This was an accident and he really did repent afterwards, even taking time to go and talk to the crowd (à chaud), and apologise for his gesture (I keep the grammar as Nalbandian said things, so there are a lot of sic that I don’t put as there would be too many):


“I’m very sorry to do that but sometimes you get very frustrated here on court and it’s tough to control that and sometimes I do a mistake, I agreed with that. It’s a very tough moment to end a final like that but sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP, trying to play a lot of tournaments try to play in conditions and ATP doesn’t do anything for us. And today, I do a mistake, I have to pay like that. And sometimes I disagree with that and I agree that I do a mistake. But sometimes everybody do a mistakes and I didn’t feel it had to end like that and especially in a final. I’m very sorry.”


Had he left it at that, it would have been all right, although his words towards the ATP were not, I must say, the wisest thing to say in the circumstances. But Nalbandian did apologise for his gesture, for his mistake. However, what followed is quite questionable… Answering a question about how the rule is, indeed, default, he goes:


“Yeah, but there is a lot of rules but sometimes they don’t do anything. The rule book is very big, very big. And I can tell you that the ATP do a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes to the players and nothing happens. And that’s what the players disagree to it with the ATP.”


That’s where he pushed it a little too far. I’m not saying he was wrong or right, just that it was not the moment to say what he did, even though, if we’ve followed the sport for long enough, we know that the rules are not often applied evenly depending on who “makes a mistake” and their standing.


However, in this case, Nalbandian knows and we know that the punishment is justified. David Nalbandian deserved to be defaulted for his actions, as someone has been injured in his anger outburst. It was an accident, but someone got injured and so, accordingly, Nalbandian was defaulted.


Tom Barnes, the ATP supervisor, confirmed afterwards that there would be no further sanction given Nalbandian. He was defaulted, which automatically included the loss of his prize money (about $33,000 USD if we only count up to the semi-finals, about $57,000 USD if it’s his finalist’s prize money) and ranking points (150) for the tournament. Furthermore, his actions are under study for a fine that can go up to $10,000. But no further sanction on top of it, which means that Nalbandian is allowed to play The Boodles exhibition, as well as Wimbledon, and the Olympic Games.


After the match, Nalbandian spoke at length to Jorge Viale (ESPN Deportes, Fue Buena) and you can listen to the audio (in Spanish) here. He again apologised for what he did and continued having a go at the ATP, but if you listen carefully, the man has a point, I think. He’s saying what other players have been saying since last year. However, I still think it wasn’t the time for such argumentation, but that’s another story.


Edit: This statement was also issued from Nalbandian, where he offers, again, his apologies for what happened.


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  1. Carol Carol
    17 June, 2012    

    The problem I have with saying that he never intended to hit the linesman is that it glosses over the fact that the linesman was inches away from the item he was kicking. This wasn’t a completely freak accident where he kicked something and it hit someone a few feet away. He gave the box a good kick and, even if it had been a lot more solid, it was likely to have some kind of effect on the person sitting right there.

    I do not want to imply that hitting the linesman was intentional, at all. I just think the result rates a bit higher than purely unintentional, if you can understand what I’m trying to say.

    I’ve read something about the possibility of a mandatory suspension not specifically for this, but because this happened on top of an incident and fine from this year’s Australian Open. Do you know any details about that?

    And it definitely wasn’t the time to start talking about the ATP. Oy.

  2. 17 June, 2012    

    Yes, it’s a possibility. As I mentioned on Twitter, because he was already fined $8,000 at the Australian Open for the water incident (I made an extensive post about it here, and the incident is still, as far as I know, under review), if he gets another fine of $2,000 or +, he will get an 8-week automatic suspension according to the ATP Rulebook.

    However, the ATP Supervisor, Tom Barnes, really mentioned that no other action will be taken regarding the incident, although it is under review for a fine.

    This said, with the extent of the money he lost, plus the default (and the disgrace that followed), and the loss of ranking points (thus preventing Nalbandian from being seeded at Wimbledon), I think he may not get a fine at all, or minimal. After all, since supervisor said no further action will be taken, if he is suspended because of a fine that is apparently still under appeal, that would be quite a loss of credibility for the ATP, in my mind.

    I think we should know more by tomorrow.

  3. 17 June, 2012    

    Adding to last comment: a question a colleague and I are having is whether Grand Slam (ITF and not ATP events) fall into the rule that I was talking about. If not, then obviously no suspension, fine or not.

  4. evie evie
    18 June, 2012    

    If I intentionally drive my car into a house, is it an accident if I hurt the person inside it?

    Of course it wasn’t an accident. He intentionally whacked a board the line judge was sitting behind. And his comments about the ATP were absurd beyond words. If anything, they hurt the overall cause. There are genuine reasons to be unhappy with the ATP. Nalbandian getting a default for injuring a line judge is not one of them.

  5. Carol Carol
    18 June, 2012    

    “David Nalbandian fined $12K, faces assault inquiry” (CBC headline)

    I guess the fine from the Australian Open incident doesn’t matter now, if the mandatory suspension happens at $10K? Although I gather it will be appealed and that will drag on for who knows how long, so it shouldn’t affect Wimbledon, the Olympics, etc.

    As for the assault investigation, I don’t know what to say about that. I suppose if it were caused by a complaint from the linesman, we can probably expect some sort of lawsuit will follow next. It may not have caused much physical injury, but the trauma…

    Oh, the wonderful times we live in!

  6. 18 June, 2012    

    @ Carol

    Did a bit of research on that topic and no, it’s not cumulative as Grand Slams are ITF and so don’t go by the ATP rulebook.

    I’m surprised I didn’t yet find anything regarding the fine other than an AP article. Nothing on the ATP side…

  7. 18 June, 2012    

    As I just tweeted, Nalbandian was indeed fined max amount of $12K, but ATP insists that he will not be suspended: One of the many articles I found on the subject.

  8. Carol Carol
    18 June, 2012    

    So mandatory suspensions aren’t mandatory, or that word has a different definition than the one I know?

    I’m not arguing whether or not a suspension is deserved, just that if there’s a rule saying it’s mandatory at that fine amount and they aren’t following it, then something needs to be fixed.

    Not all of us follow tweets. :)

    Since I’m rambling on anyway, have you given up the French blog? I’m sure it took a fair bit of time to do both.

  9. 18 June, 2012    

    No, what I found out is that since the first fine was issued in a Grand Slam, it’s subjected to ITF rulebook and not ATP. Grand Slams are ITF events, just like Davis Cup and the Olympics. They are not ruled by the ATP so ITF rules apply.

    Hope that part makes sense.

    As for the French blog, hopefully I’ll have time to bring it back to life during the summer. I had a pretty busy schedule since my trip, which included full-time teaching that was not planned (but oh, so loved!) and so time lacked a lot. But you’re right: it takes a lot of time to feed two blogs.

    Don’t worry about the tweets. I just didn’t know if it would still be in the Twitter window by the time people read. 😉

  10. Carol Carol
    19 June, 2012    

    Right, I know that about the Grand Slams, but the total fine for this event alone is over $10K. So is it only at the Slams that the mandatory suspension applies, or is there a different amount level for non-Slams, or…? I’m trying to make sense of it. Stupid David! I was pleased that he was doing so well, and just before Wimbledon too. I should be thinking about that, not fines and suspensions and other unpleasant issues.

    I appreciate the work that goes into all of this! I just ask because, selfishly, I enjoy reading both to practice and check up on my French. :)

    I didn’t even notice that there was a Twitter window, but then I don’t usually come to the site to comment.

  11. 19 June, 2012    

    First of all, sorry for the delay in approving your comment. For one, I don’t understand why you’re still moderated as once one comment is approved, all the others should automatically be. For two: no access to my blog while at work. So doubly sorry!

    I’m just as sad as you are by what David did, for the same reasons. Anger doesn’t think straight, sadly.

    And I’m just as confused, although I think in this case it might be a matter of currency. Unsure. It’s really, very confusing!

    Don’t worry, when I have free time, I will for sure try to pick up where I left off with my French page and so you’ll be able to practice again. 😉

    Glad you come by to comment, then! I like having to do something else than spam comments (which are spam). :mrgreen:

  12. Carol Carol
    20 June, 2012    

    Don’t be sorry. Perhaps the one is to do with cookie deletion or other settings I have in my browser, and I certainly understand being away from the blog and even the internet.

    I will try to comment more, although I do tend to lurk in most places. I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to try commenting in French though!

  13. 20 June, 2012    

    No, it’s really an issue with this version of WordPress that I really don’t understand.

    And don’t worry, I’ll never force you to comment in French. Even the French blog is (and has always been) open to English comments. 😉





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