MELBOURNE, Australia – Normally Bruce Banner, Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta turned into the Incredible Hulk late Monday night at the Australian Open.
Five hours on court will do that to a guy.
The 27-year-old unloaded on Australian chair umpire Thomas Sweeney after a judgment call on a blown line call.
He raged after Nishikori came back from a 5-8 deficit in the deciding tiebreak, blew past Sweeney’s chair in lieu of a handshake – and almost blew past Nishikori, too.
The Japanese player did a great job to attempt to offer what comfort he could.
First, the big red Wilson bag went flying.
Carreño-Busta then screamed his way off the court. And he continued to scream – to himself – as he headed through the tunnels back to the player areas.
(We’re thinking that the security guard who insisted Roger Federer show his credential the other way might not even have attempted to stop this runaway freight train).
A judgment call by the umpire
Nishikori was set up to hit a short ball down the line for a winner, as Carreño Busta headed to the opposite side of the court to try to defend the higher-percentage shot.
The ball was called out. But a focused Nishikori finished the shot anyway.
Carreño-Busta’s Hawkeye Challenge determined that the ball was, in fact in. But for all of the complaints when a chair umpire decides to replay a point in those circumstances, in this case Sweeney arguably did the right thing. He determined that Nishikori would have won the point regardless.
Sweeney had to make that judgment call in real time. But even on replay, it was virtually impossible that Carreño Busta would have suddenly stopped, changed direction in no man’s land and tried to track down Nishikori’s backhand down the line.
He made the right call in difficult conditions. But from Carreño-Busta’s overheated, exhausted perspective, he was screwed either way. Either the ball was out – and he lost the point. Or the ball was in – but the point would not be replayed.
Still, most of his wrath came from a place of pure exhaustion. Five hours and five minutes, and a defeat that came after Carreño Busta led Nishikori two sets to none.
Carreño Busta was emotional when he got to his press conference – undoubtedly the best-attended Pablo Carreño Busta press conference outside Spain … ever.
“Obviously I’m very sad, no, because after five hours fighting, after five hours’ match, the way that I leave from the court wasn’t correct, and I’m so sorry, because that’s not (me). I try to leave faster as possible when I lost that last point, because I know that in any moment I lost the head,” Carreño-Busta said.
“But it’s tough, no, to me to leave Australian Open like this, because I think that I played really good. I play an unbelievable match. Also Kei, he play really good, and that’s sad to leave like this.”
Carreño couldn’t really wrap his head around the fact that he was going to lose the point – either way.
But of course, had he been the one with basically an open-court forehand for a winner in a fifth-set deciding tiebreak, he wouldn’t have been of the opinion that the pointed needed to be replayed.
Social media statement
“I want to apologize for the way I left the court tonight at the Australian Open. Obviously it was a totally unfortunate reaction on my part and out of place. It’s hard to explain the frustration you feel after fighting for five hours on the court and what happened, happened. I am aware that there is no justification for my reaction and that is why I would like to apologize to the audience and all the people who have followed me on television. Thank you for the messages of encouragement I have received and know that Pablo Carreño is the player who was on the court for five hours and not the last five seconds.”
Nishikori not overimpressed
The first question to Nishikori – the marathon man of this Australian Open – was about the drama.
The Japanese star set that straight fairly quickly.
How did you feel about that point in the tiebreaker, taking up so much attention from such a marathon match?
“Well, that was important point, too, but, I mean, you should ask how I came back from two sets down. That was only one point. I mean, maybe affect him, but, you know, he took some time and maybe it could affect me. I mean, I’m really glad how I came back. Yeah, I don’t even know how I come back but very happy to win today.”