Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Rules Around Second Chances

So an interesting thing happened in Doha the other day. I'm a couple of days behind the pace, but... oh well. Mario Ancic's retirement was worth it.

Cautionary note: today I am writing about the WTA. I know I don't do this a lot, so proceed at your own peril. The likelihood of me saying a number of things which are wrong is high.

Okay. So this interesting thing that happened in Doha. Lucie Safarova beat Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets. This was an upset (technically), but is not the interesting thing. No, I'm being all tennis-nerdy and referring to one weird call in particular.

Let me set the scene. The players! Radwanska and Safarova! The umpire! Kader Nouni! The stadium! Mostly empty, because it is Doha! And what happened is this.

Aga and Lucie are rallying, valiantly hitting the ball each to each. Safarova hits the ball to Radwanska. Radwanska has a play on the ball, but does not hit it, on account of the linesperson yelling OUT! Unfortunately for Aga, that linesperson also yelled CORRECTION! a split second later.

No matter, it seems. Aga challenges, hoping that the ball will be out and the point will thus be hers. But the ball is good. A let, it seems, should be played. But no! Kader Nouni awards the point to Safarova. And Aga gets maaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.

This one ended up with the tournament referee coming out to clarify the ruling, something which I think I've only seen once before (and hey, Nico, if you ever read this, do you want to explain the ruling in that match against Troicki to me? because I didn't understand it). The ref came down on Kader's side, which Aga obviously didn't like. And I don't blame her, because I totally understand her point of view.

The situation, as I understand it, was this: because Radwanska challenged the call, she thus forfeited her chance at playing a let, because she couldn't have two chances to win the point. I don't think Kader Nouni explained this particularly well to her - it took me a while to even begin to understand what he was saying. I totally see Aga's perspective on this - she was there, she had a play on the ball, the out call was interference, so it should be a let. And it would have been a let - had she not challenged. But no, because she challenged, the point had to be decided one way or another.

I certainly wasn't aware of this rule, and it doesn't seem like Aga was either. I've heard several criticisms of the interactions of HawkEye with actual umpiring, and it seems like this was one. This is clearly a pretty obscure rule, which doesn't have much call to be used... or does it? It seems like this situation would happen a lot, now that I think about it. Was Kader Nouni upholding the letter of the law where most umpires do not? I've never seen this ruling before and it seems like it would be pretty common - surely players challenge things all the time and lets are played? I can't put my finger on any particular instances of it at the moment, but it must happen. And I don't remember any players being particularly upset at their opponent being given Nouni's 'two chances' to win the point.

Aga clearly wasn't aware of this rule, otherwise it seems unlikely that she would challenge. It seems like a lot of players would be more reticent to challenge if this rule were employed more commonly. So does there need to be a clear delineation of the rules around HawkEye? Should Kader have told Aga before she challenged that if she was wrong she was forfeiting the point? Or should this rule - which obviously exists, because the tournament referee upheld it - be changed, so that Aga would get her let?


1 comment:

Beatka said...

Apparently,this rule doesn't exist and Aga should have got her let. WTA officially appologized to Aga the next day, but it cost her to mull over the lost chance and switched momentum to the point that she lost her doubles match the next day. Kader was wrong twice, letting Aga challenge and then awarding point to Lucie. The most famous example of exactly opposite ruling: Ana/Daniella semifinal match at 2008 AO.