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Brian Lutz / Find Your Aha Moment
To the casual fan perhaps this might seem like an innocent mistake. But tennis players know if you hit someone with a tennis ball outside of the on court rally you are in big trouble.
You lose rankings points, your entire prize money from the tournament and maybe worst for elite athletes a big PR hit.
I played in an ITF sanctioned doubles event a few years ago with a former ATP player who liked to throw his racquet when things didn’t go well.
In fact, he would throw it the length of the court. So the racquet would fly over the net and land on the other side of the court. Convenient if you don’t feel like carrying your equipment but very dangerous for bystanders and fans.
As we got to the other side I was curious if the tournament referee would appear on our court as this type of behavior is at the very least a warning.
If you hit anyone, including a fan, volunteer, fellow player or staff you are automatically ejected from the tournament. In tennis it’s called default.
When Novak rifled that tennis ball into the backstop on Saturday and hit the lines person in the throat it was just a formality and a matter of time.
Personally, if that happened to me I would default myself. But I get it the stakes are higher at the US Open so with all of this pressure how can you say how you would react when placed in that situation.
But as the 2020 tennis season couldn’t get any more strange with no fans and limited media access and hyper tight testing and quarantine rules Novak gets kicked out of the US Open.
Many of my students and friends who are casual fans texted and hit up my DM for clarification. Imagine if Lebron James rifled a basketball into the stands and hit a fan or referee on the sideline.
There is no warning for this “ball abuse” or “unsportsmanlike conduct”.
There is a good story in the NY Times about recent history of tennis defaults. Of course, who can forget Serena Williams default when the verbally abused and lines person a few years ago.
Here are the highlights from the first set up the match before it ended at 6-5. I show you this simply because I’m a tennis fan and their are some terrific points.
Most of the video highlight is from the incident so be patient and you will see the entire unfortunate episode.