It was 8-8 in the fifth set and David Nalbandian and John Isner had been doing battle for over four and a half hours leaving minimal hope that either player will still be walking tomorrow let alone playing well against Feliciano Lopez on Friday.
Isner was serving at 30-40 and Nalbandian looked like he might break when French umpire Kader Nouni stepped in and ruined a brilliant match. Isner served down the middle and the ball was called long by the linesperson but Nouni overruled. A confused Nalbandian took a moment to register, the crowd screaming loudly, and requested a challenge.
This is where is all went wrong.
Nouni denied Nalbandian’s challenge saying it was not made in a timely manner.
I should take this moment to point out that the rules of a Hawk Eye challenge do not specify what a “timely manner” means. Most players trot over to the line have a look and then challenge and are warned first but I don’t remember anyone ever denying a challenge before, especially not at 8-8 in the fifth set in a Grand Slam.
Nalbandian summed it up best himself, saying it is “ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpires. Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment?”
Isner was cramping and not calling for the trainer as rules specify but Nalbandian was essentially screwed by the system that gives the umpire free range to make such high stake decisions that are completely unusual.
Nalbandian called on match referee Andreas Egli as he protested but was not rewarded. Isner went on to hold serve for a 9-8 leave and then broke the agitated Argentine to take the match as the crowd and social media went into over drive condemning the decision of Noumi.
Nalbandian shook hands with Isner at the end of his match but his racket lay destroyed at the back of the court.
The serve was a fault.
Nalbandian’s challenge would have been correct. Nouni’s overrule was wrong, his denying Nalbandian the right to challenge was absurd.
It’s time for a “timely manner” to be defined clearly.
“Too late? How many times everybody check the mark and ask for the Hawk-Eye? So somebody from the umpires or ATP, somebody can explain to me this situation.
I mean, what is this? This is a grand slam…I mean, I don’t see the video, but I don’t think it was too late to call.
John say: ‘Yeah, ask.’ I mean, the Hawk-Eye, and umpire didn’t want to.
It’s ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpires.
What is this? What did the ATP do for this? I didn’t understand in that situation, 8-all break point.”