On what could have been a crowning day turned ugly for David Nalbandian Sunday. Playing in his first grass final since the 2002 Wimbledon, Nalbandian met Marin Cilic for the Queen’s Club title in London.
Leading by a set and just three games from his first ATP title in almost two years, Nalbandian was stunningly defaulted from the match after the Argentine kicked an ad banner into the leg of a seated service linesman. The force left a bloody gash on the lineman’s leg.
The incident drew an immediate disqualification from chair umpire Fergus Murphy, a decision later upheld by ATP supervisor Tom Barnes.
By ATP rule, Nalbandian will forfiet all ranking points and prize money he was to earn for reaching the Queen’s final. And the 30-year-old will likely face further fines and a possible suspension from the circuit.
Nalbandian, who’s been known to be a hot head having been fined earlier this year in Australia for throwing water on a doping official, tried to be apologetic afterward but then hit back at the ATP.
“Today I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes I agree and I do but everyone makes mistakes. I don’t feel it had to end like that – especially in a final,” the BBC reported Nalbandian saying. “There are a lot of rules and sometimes they don’t do anything. The rule book is very big and I can tell you the ATP do a lot to the players and nothing happens.”
The default, also likely the first levied during an ATP tournament final in recent history, gave Cilic his 7th career ATP title, first on grass.
“It was very bitter,” Cilic told the BBC. “It’s definitely not the way I wanted to win. To end like this is not easy.
“The match was getting hot and it’s tough to see the final finish like this. I can’t change it, but I’m really sorry for the fans that it finished like this.”
Nalbandian: “I feel sorry and regret hurting the line judge. I never tried to hurt him but this regretful moment was entirely my fault.”
Barnes said: “It is unsportsmanlike conduct, and the supervisor has the authority to declare an immediate default. Once I saw that the line judge was injured, I didn’t have any other option.”
Tournament Director Chris Kermode said: “It is obviously not the way that we wanted to finish the final and I can understand the crowd’s frustration, but the tournament is governed by ATP rules and this was a clear-cut case. The line judge was seen and treated by St John’s Ambulance. He also saw the Doctor, and no further treatment was required.”
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