Everybody loves rivalries, trash-talking, and lighthearted ribbing in sports. Nobody wants to see it go too far, but competition and mutual respect that lead to heated confrontations on the field are pure entertainment. Big egos and confidence are a big factor in several athletes’ mindsets, and that’s what makes seeing an overtly polite player so interesting and fun to watch. They’re like unicorns in the wild, not very common, but full of happiness and rainbows.
We can poke fun at Philip Rivers all we want for saying things like “dadgummit”, or Andrew Luck for complimenting pass rushers who hit him, but you have to admit that it’s a little refreshing to see people so nice or wholesome compete at an elite level.
Tennis doesn’t like it though. In fact, it seems tennis doesn’t want its players saying anything to one another during a match. Yesterday, the world number two, Daniil Medvedev, smashed a high ball straight into his opponent, Alexander Bublik. Getting hit anywhere by a smash from one of the best tennis players in the world would hurt. However, Bublik was able to return the ball just barely. He pretty much had to just put his racket up and pray. The ball did hit Bublik’s racket and was even on trajectory to bounce on Medvedev’s side of the court, buuut Medvedev didn’t know the ball hit Bublik’s racket. He thought it bounced off Bublik’s face. Medvedev promptly tried to apologize to his opponent, yelling “sorry” before smashing Bublik’s return again — this time for the point. But Medvedev didn’t get that point, for a very peculiar reason.
Chair umpire Aurélie Tourte, a gold badge umpire (meaning she’s been given clearance to officiate Grand Slam events, as well as ATP World Tour and WTA matches — a very high honor for tennis officials), ruled Medvedev’s “sorry” as a “hindrance” to Bublik, taking his attention away from the rally. I understand the sentiment behind this rule. You don’t want one player offering the other brain teasers in the middle of the match. How is Novak Djokovic supposed to place a perfectly executed drop shot while trying to work out how a cowboy could ride into town on Friday and leave three days later on Friday?* Each player needs to be in a state of absolute focus if the best tennis product is to be presented at all times. But “sorry”? Come on! That’s not a distraction.
Keep in mind that Bublik was sprawled out on the floor when Medvedev muttered his apologies. Bublik was in no position to return what Medvedev was about to dish out. If anything, Medvedev’s final blow after shouting “sorry” was merely a formality, an obligation of the sport. Not to mention, we hear tennis players grunting and sharply exhaling all the time on the court. Why aren’t those hindrances? Sure, they fall under different circumstances — Medvedev’s “sorry” was after his swing and had nothing to do with grunting while swinging, but does that mean that if Medvedev had said “sorry” while coming down for his follow-up smash, it would’ve been alright? I’m curious how the rulebook would interpret that.
Even Bublik started laughing at the ruling. He thought he’d been called for hindrance because of how hard his racket hit the clay as he fell to the ground. Medvedev was understandably frustrated with the call, and went on to tell the umpire that this moment was going to be on Tennis TV — presumably because Medvedev believed tennis fans (and sports writers!) would rip the umpire a new one online. Bing!
Medvedev had no issues finishing off the match. He won — 4-6; 6-3; 6-4 — but still maintains that the call was “unbelievable.”
*His horse was named Friday. The more you know…