In a startling act of equal parts frustration and stupidity, David Nalbandian was disqualified today during the final of the prestigious Queen's Club tournament against Marin Cilic. Despite being up 7-6 (3), 3-3, 40-15 on serve, Nalbandian let his anger get the best of him during a rally in which he was stretched wide on the run for a forehand and missed.
The actions directly afterward cost him not just the point, but his disqualification from the tournament as well as the loss of his points and reward money as well.
After missing on the forehand while on the stretch at the doubles alley, Nalbandian's momentum carried him towards a line judge sitting on a chair inside a wooden Nike box of sorts meant to probably provide some small shield against tennis balls. Instead of stopping and walking back for the next point, Nalbandian angrily kicked the wooden box, causing it to break apart and the front board to smash into the line judge's ankle, causing severe pain and a minor injury.
It's probably one of the most unfortunate endings in recent memory for all involved. For the crowd, they were ultimately given an unsatisfactory ending to what was shaping up to be a grand final. For Nalbandian, his blunder left him with no title, no points and no prize money. As for Cilic, it's an empty win, though a fine run to the final in which to be proud of. He was losing the match, and though he could have come back to win in the end, this kind of win leaves much to be desired on both sides.
I'm not here to defend Nalbandian's actions. Although I don't feel for a second that he intentionally hurt the line judge, his actions were disgraceful in conduct. Had the box been empty, he would have simply been given a warning, but the moment you hurt a judge or ball boy or girl in an aggressive or violent fashion, regardless of intent, it's adios.
What is most sad here is that I'm perplexed as to why Nalbandian was so frustrated. Cilic was giving him a great match, but he was winning and probably would have gone on the win the match had he simply stayed the course.
Some will say that he shouldn't have been DQ'd. Some might say the line judge should have sucked it up and continued or expressed a desire to not have Nalbandian forfeit, but in a sport infused with integrity and honor, both were sullied in a moment of heated frustration.
Novak Djokovic busted up his on-court Perrier box during the Roland Garros final against Rafael Nadal a week ago; however, while that was not particularly pleasant to see, the only thing that was hurt was the box and maybe a sliver of pride.
If Serena Williams can be defaulted for threatening a line judge at the U.S. Open, does actual physical contact warrant the same, even if the intent was different?
Serena's anger and malice were directed towards the judge and the threat was apparent. Nalbandian's anger was directed momentarily at the box and he probably didn't even realize in his flash of anger that there was a judge sitting there. I understand the intent was different, but both have their punishments for different reasons. It's all abut how you conduct yourself.
I understand frustration on the tennis court. I've been there, and the moments I've reacted angrily were regretful, but they were also in front of zero fans playing recreational tennis with my brother. After spending nearly 15 or so years on tour, and having been on the precipice of winning his first grass title since Lleyton Hewitt defeated him in the finals of Wimbledon in 2002, you would have thought that Nalbandian's mood after playing such brilliant tennis all week and being up in the final would have tempered a moment like this.
Ultimately, this will be a major talking point over the next few days. Wherever Nalbandian goes, this will follow. After showing such fine mental and physical form all week, it will be interesting to see how he reacts on court and off to the verbal barrage of questions, remarks and articles he will encounter as long as he's in the Wimbledon draw.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel David Nalbandian should have been DQ'd? Does it matter whether or not it was a final?