Nouni Merits Red Card for Australian Open Overrule

by John on January 19, 2012

Kader Nouni the grooviest man in tennis. So says the Facebook page of the colorful French tennis umpire. Don’t tell that to Argentine David Nalbandian, though. Nalbandian got hosed yesterday at the Australian Open by Nouni’s controversial overrule of a line judges’ out call late in the fifth set of his second-round match with American John Isner. Prior to Wednesday, the 35-year-old Nouni’s gravest transgressions as a chair umpire amounted to denying Serena Williams a potty break in a controversial Wimbledon match with Daniela Hantuchova in 2007 and several oncourt flirtations with Caroline Wozniacki. Mild stuff, basically. Not so the Nalbandian-Isner flap. This one was a whopper. After over four and a half hours of exhausting play, the sun going down, 8-8 in the fifth set, Isner serving and trying to stave off his third break point of the game, the stage was set for some real drama. Nouni spoiled it. Isner cracked a 120-mph heater which was called wide by the center linesperson. The crowd buzzed loudly in anticipation of a second serve coming. But no. Amidst all the clamor, Nouni overruled the call and credited Isner with an ace and the point. As confusion reigned, neither player seemed to know what was going on. When Nalbandian realized what had happened he went to check the mark and challeged the overrule. Up in the booth, ESPN commentator Brad Gilbert said, “That’s a yellow card for the umpire.” Hawk-Eye confirmed the serve was wide, but a strident Nouni denied Nalbandian’s challenge. Too much time, Nouni ruled. Deuce. “I’m changing it from a yellow to a red on that,” Gilbert said after Nouni’s refusal to bend. Following the freebie, Isner won the next two points to hold, then broke Nalbandian in the ensuing game to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 10-8 in four hours and 41 minutes. “It’s ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpire,” Nalbandian said. “Eight-all. Break point. Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment? What does the umpire need? Press, the name, his picture (in the media) tomorrow? Incredible.” To his credit, Nalbandian didn’t blame the overrule for his loss. No. But he sure as hell got robbed of an opportunity. Nouni deserves some time in the penalty box for this indiscretion.


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