Argentina’s David Nalbandian was sensationally disqualified from the Queen’s Club final on Sunday for angrily kicking an advertising board at a line judge, leaving the official suffering a gashed and bloodied leg.
The fiery Nalbandian, who had won the first set 7-6 (7/3) against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, had just lost his serve to fall 4-3 down in the second set when he reacted with a frustrated kick at the board, which was just in front of line judge Andrew McDougall.
A stunned and angry McDougall then rolled up his trousers to reveal a bloody gash on his leg, before appearing to remonstrate with Nalbandian.
Play came to a halt and after a delay of several minutes, ATP supervisor Tom Barnes came onto the court to speak to umpire Fergus Murphy and Nalbandian.
It soon emerged that the 30-year-old’s petulant behavior had been punished with disqualification “due to unsportsmanlike behavior” and Cilic was declared the champion.
Nalbandian responded by waving his arms in frustration, while the 6,000-capacity crowd jeered, but the former Wimbledon finalist later returned to the court to apologize for his actions.
“I am sorry to do that. Sometimes we get very frustrated here on court. It is tough to control,” he said, before also launching into a rant against ATP chiefs. “It is a tough moment to end a final like that. Sometimes we feel the pressure from the ATP. It is a mistake and I have to pay for that. Everybody makes mistakes. 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.”
Barnes, who confirmed he made the decision to eject Nalbandian as soon as he saw the line judge was hurt, said the Argentine had accepted the sanction and that he would be stripped of his runners-up check of 44,945 euros (US$56,802), and 150 ATP ranking points, which he would have earned as a beaten finalist.
He could also be hit with a 10,000 euro fine, to be decided by ATP chiefs at a later date.
“He knows the rules and knew what was going to happen. He didn’t do it intentionally. He lost control and a guy got hurt,” Barnes said. “I am not surprised by what he said about the ATP.”
Nalbandian was understood to be unhappy with playing conditions at Queen’s Club, a traditional warm-up event for Wimbledon, where the schedule had been badly affected by rain all week.
“The grass had been slippery. Maybe he thought it wasn’t safe, but the courts were playable,” Barnes said.
Tournament director Chris Kermode told the BBC: “It’s one of those really unfortunate things.”
“It was an unbelievable final. Best match all week. Nalbandian ran across in frustration and kicked a panel, which went flying across and caught a line judge. He’s quite seriously injured. A violation was called immediately,” he said. “Nalbandian clearly regrets what he’s done. It’s unfortunate. These things happen. To have the match ending this way is disappointing, but we’re under the governance of ATP rules. David feels terrible. It was a pure accident.”
Cilic looked slightly bewildered as he lifted the giant silver trophy during a rather subdued post-match presentation on court.
It was the 23-year-old’s first ATP title since winning in St Petersburg, Russia, in October last year and the triumph made him the first Croatian man to win on grass since Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon in 2001.