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Sunday, September 25, 2005

What's a Sportsman to do?

What's a Sportsman to do?~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005--

The controversy in the Andy Roddick-Olivier Rochus match in Belgium will rage, and anyone who saw it must admit the home team was robbed. It is so infuriating to me that Brad Gilbert and Cliff Drysdale and everyone watching ESPN2 knew it was the wrong call--to the point of their spending five minutes trying to determine just what the umpire and the linesperson could possibly be discussing--and yet no one at the Sportplaza could be as sure. Why should spectators at home be privy to superior information? Get the call right. By whatever means necessary.

And I am incredulous that, on the USTA website, an AP report dares to describe this point in the match as:

The match turned Roddick's way in the fifth set when Rochus missed the easiest of volleys to give the American a 4-2 lead. The Belgians disputed the call but finally relented.
It sounds like the reporter had already left the arena for dinner and had gotten this interpretation from a friend of a friend who might have been there. Reuters provides an accurate account here.

As for Roddick and McEnroe, well, let's just say it wasn't their finest moment either. Where was the Roddick who conceded a match point in Rome this year, costing himself a win? He watched the Rochus overhead, and went to receive serve, saying in that movement that he knew it was good. Perhaps it is a bit much to ask that he concede the point when there's teammates involved, and he's been running on heart and guts for four plus hours-- that's when he needs to take his cue from the captain, who is there to provide some emotional stability in the highly-charged Davis Cup atmosphere. Granted, McEnroe didn't make the mistake--it was the linesperson and the umpire doing the disheartening damage--but he certainly took advantage of it, and that's probably the reason everyone on the U.S. team seems to want to forget the whole ugly mess as soon as possible.

As I watched Alex Clayton and Sam Querrey on the sidelines, I wondered just what it is the two juniors had learned from the match. The will and the fortitude of two terrific tennis players competing with their last ounce of energy? Or that the clamor for a win can drown out that little voice telling us to do the right thing?


Anonymous said...

It isn't the job of the players or the captains (or the commentators as you are suggesting) to make calls. It is the job of the officials. The lineswoman called the ball out and the umpire couldn't find the mark so he couldn't overrule. End of story. One point doesn't decide a match. Rochus had break points in Roddick's next service game and didn't convert. He lost, get over it.

Anonymous said...

The most disgraceful and illogical aspect of this disaster was the fact that, throughout the match, the umpire got out of his chair to examine ball marks to determine his final line call and often overruled line calls based upon the ball mark. However, inexplicitly and on the biggest point of the match when it was most clear to everyone that the call was incorrect, the umpire never got out of his chair to check the mark.

The previous poster states that the umpire couldn't find the mark, but the umpire never even got out of his chair to LOOK, so how do we know he couldn't find it?!

Darryl said...

the biggest shame is that the bad call robbed us of a tight dramatic last set. it definetely shows the need for some sort of instant replay option. good job though andy, i wouldnt even have been able to walk after a 4 and a half hour match.

Anonymous said...

Think of it this way, in ANY other sport no one would be expected to concede a point. In football when theres a fumble but the guys knee was clearly down you never see the team who got the better end of the deal go to the refs and say he was down. In basketball you never see a guy admit the ball went off him out of bounds, i played tennis competitively from the 12s all the way through early college and i get so sick and tired of people thinking that tennis should be 100% honest. I hate cheating, but if a call is made you think is wrong and your opponents shot was in, you keep your mouth shut and walk to the other side of the court. I know its not the most moral thing to do, but youd never expect a 300lb lineman to give the ball back to the other team, so why tennis? Unless its match point you get screwed on, one point doesnt cause you to lose.

Anonymous said...

To elaborate, in reading my post i dont think i made this clear. I do not condone cheating, i didnt mean it that way, what i meant was if you catch a break, take it. Now if your in the juniors calling your own lines, be honest, but when there are 5 linespeople and an umpire out there for that specific purpose and thats their job, they miss a call, oh well.

Anonymous said...

Trying to somehow taint Andy Roddick, Patrick McEnroe, or the U.S. team for an official's err in judgment is one of the more ridiculous things I've ever heard. Next you'll be suggesting that the Belgium captain be given a sportsmanship award for his appalling behavior during the team dinner & the tie (for which Kim Clijsters publically & privately apoligized on behalf of Belgium to Roddick & the entire U.S. team). Admittedly neither Roddick nor McEnroe (who were closer to the line than Rochus or the Belgian captain) saw the bounce & therefore had no room to argue one way or another. Both sat in their chairs (Roddick getting a much welcome rest) during the ongoing argument & didn't attempt to influence the umpire (who could have easily reversed the lineswoman's call or replayed the point).

Colette Lewis said...

I knew when I wrote this post it would generate some discussion. As to other sports not requiring concessions, there's a big exception to that--golf. I know that in the past year, Ryan Moore, who won all the major Amateur titles in 2004, called a penalty on himself when his ball moved while he was addressing it. There was no one there to see it but him (I think it was in a hazard), but golf rules are clear that it must be reported.
Tennis doesn't require this sort of integrity, except, as one of you pointed out, during call-your-own-lines junior matches. But it doesn't prohibit it either. Since I wrote the initial post, both McEnroe and Roddick were quoted as saying they didn't see the ball bounce and apparently, neither did the chair umpire. That's a lot of people not paying attention on a break point. But only the chair umpire has the obligation to look. Dare I saw he may end up in the same dog house as the umpire of the Williams Capriati match at last year's U.S. Open?

Anonymous said...

did i miss something? why did clijsters apologize, i mean i watched the whole thing, but i guess i missed what happened during the team dinner that the belguim coach was acting bad, can anyone fill me in?

Colette Lewis said...

Here's Charlie Bricker's take on why Andy Roddick won't be inviting Belgium's Davis Cup Captain Steve Martens to dinner anytime soon.