Sunday 19 June 2011

Eastbourne final: lights, rain, retirement

The rain delays in England caused many matches this week to take two, or even three days to complete. They also made it necessary to hold both semifinals and finals of the AEGON International tournament in Eastbourne on the same day - both for the women and the men.

So, first of all, congratulations to Marion Bartoli, who won a well-deserved trophy today, beating Sam Stosur in the semis and Petra Kvitova in the finals of the WTA tournament.

But I'm here to talk about something else. Andreas Seppi, from Italy, beat Igor Kunitsyn in the first men's semifinals of the day, and Janko Tipsarevic was the winner of the second semifinals, winning against Kei Nishikori. A few hours later, they met for their final match. And this was the start of a pretty dramatic chain of events, some of which I really can't understand.

My first question is - why weren't the semis scheduled to start at the same time? We've seen unreasonable scheduling from quite a few tournaments lately (Roland Garros, anyone?), this was just another example. My second question - why was almost everything played on a single court, on a day where you have to complete so many matches? Yes, I get that SF should be put on centre court, for the benefit of the people who paid for their tickets... But how exactly are you going to fit 5 matches (2 singles SF, 2 singles finals, 1 doubles finals) in about 9 hours - 10:30 to 19:30 approx., when it gets too dark? And that's before the possible rain that can disrupt play even more.

Well, the answer is - you're not going to fit all those matches in. And so, after Seppi took the first set, 7-6(5), and Tipsarevic won the second, 6-3, the third set started a little while after 19:20, local time. Shortly afterward, Tipsarevic asked for the match to be stopped, since it was too dark to see the ball properly. The umpire, Steve Ullrich, declined, and the tournament director was later called on court. He didn't want to call the play off either, despite Tipsarevic's argument that his match against Ward was stopped at the same time a few days earlier. (I tried to find the exact time when that happened, but didn't succeed - if anyone knows where I can find it, I'd appreciate it)

The arguments continued all the way through the next few games, as Tipsarevic was broken twice. At *4-0 30:30 to Seppi, it started raining. Ullrich stopped the players immediately, and they soon went back to the locker room. At this point, I fully expected the match to be halted - the grass was slippery after the rain, the players already cooled down, and it was getting darker by the minute. But no, after the rain stopped, the match resumed, despite Tipsarevic's continuing protests. The delay benefited him temporarily, as he managed to break back twice and get back on serve, at 4-3*. According to one of the commentators on Eurosport, at this point the ATP officials wanted at least one more game to be played before the match was stopped and rescheduled for the following day (but he wasn't 100% sure he heard correctly).

Then, during one of the points of the eighth game, Tipsarevic slipped on the grass. Badly. A medical timeout was required, his thigh was bandaged, and he limped back to the baseline. Even the commentators were agreeing at that point that it was getting too dark to keep on playing, but the match still went on. Wincing and moving badly, Tipsarevic tried to close the game, but after saving one of two break points, ended up getting broken for 5-3, hardly even standing. One point later, at *5-3 15-0 to Seppi, Tipsarevic retired.

In the couple of hours that passed since the match was over, I've seen lots of comments saying Janko shouldn't have retired - that it was poor form, disrespect for the opponent, pathetic, overly dramatic, and plainly dumb, to pick a few. Well, I vehemently disagree. I think that standing on the court (when you can hardly stand without doubling up in pain), and waiting for your opponent to hit 3 aces, without trying to return the serve, does not make you look better. I really don't think this could've made Seppi (or anyone else, for that matter) feel better about his win. Of course, nobody wants to win because of a retirement, but do you want to win because your opponent doesn't try to play at all? It feels the same to me, if not more disrespectful. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but this is how I feel.

Janko tweeted some time after the match:
I know I have a wonderfull life full of love and happiness.But sometimes I feel that I dont deserve the things that are happening to me

Retirement or no Andrea was a better player today and he deserved to win this event
Seppi will be back on court tomorrow, to play the doubles finals.

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