By Jane Voigt
Key Biscayne, Fla. — Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are friends. They practice together and hang out together. But yesterday at the end of set one in their quarterfinal match, their friendship was put to a test.
At 5-6 Murray served, aiming for a tiebreak in the first set. On the first point Murray hustled for a ball and lobbed it up, but it landed short. Djokovic ran in and tapped a winner. However, and according to Djokovic himself, he hit the ball on Murray’s side of the net. Murray questioned the call made by the chair umpire, who sided with Djokovic.
To paraphrase, the ump said Novak followed through with his racquet, which is a-okay, but had not contacted the ball on Murray’s side of the net, which is definitely not a-okay. To add insult to injury and with electronic devices recording every second of the match, the Stadium One jumbo-tron televised the point. Novak had committed an error by contacting the ball on Murray’s side of the court. However, Djokovic was clueless about why.
“I’m going to be completely honest with you,” Djokovic told the press. “I did pass the net with my racquet and I told Andy that. I told him I did not touch the net. My bad. I did not know that the rule is that I’m not allowed to cross the net.”
Novak Djokovic walks to the baseline after the incident during his quarterfinal win over Andy Murray yesterday at Sony Open Tennis. Photo credit Sony Open Tennis.
Even at that time it’s hard to comprehend why Djokovic was not informed that his mistake had to do with where he contacted the ball.
“It’s not my fault. It’s obviously chair umpire didn’t make the decision about these things,” Djokovic said. Would he have conceded the point? “Yeah, yeah, if I was clear on the rule. Right now that’s the way it is.”
Actor Kevin Spacey in the house, during quarterfinal between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray
Several journalists read into Djokovic’s comments as less than honorable. Mike Dickson of The Daily Mail wrote, “‘Djokovic claimed afterwards, surely disingenuously, that he did not know he had done anything wrong.'”
Pete Bodo took a crack at those who questioned Djokovic’s morality in his post, ‘Net Loss,’ on tennis.com. “‘Cynics might guffaw at the idea that Djokovic wasn’t sure about the rules. You might have expected him to bone up on the rule book after that disastrous episode in Paris. But personally, I don’t like to call a man a liar unless I’m dead sure that’s what he is.'”
Should Djokovic have known?
Subjective perspectives are just that. Some will say he should have known, especially after his misstep in the semifinals of Roland Garros last year against Rafael Nadal. But in that instance, Novak touched the net with his foot and lost the point. It had nothing to do with contacting the ball on the opponent’s side.
USA Today ran a story last March that revealed players’ lack of understanding of basic court rules. In the article Murray suggested the ATP should increase time between points to 25 seconds. But that’s what the ATP already allows. In Grand Slams, though, which are run by the International Tennis Federation, players have only 20 seconds.
The article will either leave you dumbfounded or awaken you to the realization that tennis players are human and quite misinformed.
Neither Murray or Djokovic were willing to expand upon their experiences during the match. Murray trumped the press, saying, “Okay. So that’s fine. I don’t need to keep getting asked about it. It it was over the, if it was over the net, and I was right to complain and that’s it.’
Djokovic said, “At the net I said, Sorry about that point, but he didn’t want to talk about it.”
Bottom line … Murray couldn’t drop it. Could not separate that point from all the points that followed, a sine qua non for professional players that succeed consistently. He went up a break in the second set, lost it, and Djokovic rolled.
Perhaps with all the electronic devices spinning in our daily universe, one should be used to replay incidents like this one. The chair umpire could have reversed his decision, which would have been the fair avenue. But, then again, maybe players should be held accountable for knowing the rules?
Sportsmanship is also an avenue, which would have called for a proper ruling by the chair an apology from Novak, plus he would have had to give up the point. Even then, though, would Murray have been able to concentrate?
Simply put, the scoreline indicates performance outside and beyond the drama.