April 18, 2024

Open Court

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Shocker in Dubai as Rublev is defaulted (updated)

Somehow you knew, when Andrey Rublev got directly in the face of a line umpire to protest a line call late in the third set of his Dubai semifinal, that it probably wouldn’t end well.

It turned out to be even worse than that.

Rublev is out.

The 26-year-old Russian was defaulted by supervisor Roland Herfel, at 5-6 in the third set against Alexander Bublik, for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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UPDATE: On Monday, it was announced that Rublev’ expected appeal was successful. His prize money and ranking points were reinstated. And he was fined some $36,000 US instead.

It all happened very quickly, precipitated by a Russian-speaking line umpire who reported something Rublev had allegedly said in Russian.

Rublev had already been screaming to his camp after the previous point, bemoaning a ball that went off the frame.

At 5-5, 40-30, early in the rally, a ball from Bublik landed deep – on the line, per the line umpire but out, per Rublev.

(All screenshots: TennisTV)

Rublev eventually made an error as Bublik held for 6-5.

But before going to sit down for a changeover prior to serving to stay in the match, Rublev went over to the alleged culprit on the line call in a way that could only be described as menacing – especially in the state he was in.

As he waved his racquet in anger, the stick got … awfully close to the line umpire’s face, too.

Russian-speaking line umpire tells

Immediately, another line umpire came up to chair umpire Miriam Bley, and it seemed obvious he was reporting some language.

Bley called for the veteran supervisor Herfel, who promptly called both line umpires over.

It turned out that the line umpire was Russian-speaking. And he reported that Rublev (in Russian), had used some unacceptable language. It was hard to hear, but it sounded like “f…ing … something (idiot/moron)”.

Rublev was incredulous, even as the crowd was booing.

“What do you mean – default?”

He swore to Herfel that he didn’t say it. And not only that, he swore was speaking in English, not Russian.

But given the line umpire’s report, Herfel had little choice but to default him.

Bublik was also pretty incredulous. He told Herfel that he was “okay to continue”. But of course that’s not his call.

Rublev knows, in calmer moments, that you just can’t confront a line umpire that way regardless of what was said or in what language.

Rublev pleaded with Herfel to check the video, rather than just trust the word of the line umpire.

“The match is over,” Herfel said.

“They don’t invent it,” he added.

And that was that.

Although it likely won’t be the end of the story.

You’d expect that Rublev will appeal this.

Because a default means also defaulting hotel accommodations, all prize money earned ($157,555 US so far, nearly $300,000 if he managed to come back and win in a third-set tiebreak, and more than $550,000 if he won the tournament) – and the ranking points (200, 330 and 500 to win the title).

He’ll also drop out of the top five in the rankings.

And there could be additional sanctions.

Bublik to Rublev’s defence

In his post-match press conference, Bublik pointed out that when there is electronic line calling (which there was the previous week at the lower-level ATP 250 in Doha, but not this week in Dubai) they “don’t have those troubles”.

“It’s our passion, we play for this. We live for this. We grew up dreaming to be playing these stadiums,” Bublik said. “Then some guy who is working for three years as a line judge, staying there deciding something. Is it fault of Andrey? Maybe. Is it fault of the umpire? Maybe.”

He also pointed out that while the line umpires are replaceable (by technology), the players are not.

“What happened with other players – with me myself, other guys – it’s only because someone made a mistake in the important moment. Then you just lose it because you’ve been fighting three hours. Then this happens,” he said.

You’d expect that reaction from him, although he seems to have missed a few chapters in this saga.

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