Third-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas progressed to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic in Melbourne on Tuesday.
However, there was a moment during the final stages of the match when World No. 4 Tsitsipas almost hit a ball kid on the court and risked being defaulted.
During the eighth game of the third set, the 21-year-old Lehecka hit a body serve to which Tsitsipas replied with a crosscourt forehand but the Czech player won the point with a forehand winner down the line. Out of frustration, Tsitsipas hit the ball back into the wall behind him moments after the rebound while the ball kid near that corner had started moving to collect the ball at the same time. Had the ball struck the kid after Tsitsipas hit it, the third seed would have been instantly disqualified from the match.
Jim Courier, a two-time Australian Open, while commentating on the match, “Tsitsipas just got really lucky. He swings at anger and it nearly hits the ball kid. And if it does, he’s shaking hands a loser in this match. You cannot do that. You have to be careful. That was dangerous.”
The Grand Slam rules state: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.
“The referee, in consultation with the Grand Slam chief of supervisors may declare a default for either a single violation of this code.”
“I saw the ball kid when the ball came back. I’m a professional tennis player. I was not aiming for the ball kid obviously,” said Tsitsipas in the post-match press conference when asked about the incident.
“I saw the wall, just went back towards the wall. The ball kid, in my eyes, was pretty far away from me. Would have really had to miss to hit that ball kid. What I did, definitely I’m not happy about that. I shouldn’t have done it. But it was part of the moment. My ball fell short,” he added.
In his fourth-round match at the 2020 US Open, Novak Djokovic randomly hit the ball towards the baseline, and it went straight at the throat of a lines judge who doubled up and collapsed on the floor, clutching her throat in agony.
| Photo Credit: AP
Novak Djokovic was defaulted from his fourth-round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta at the 2020 US Open after striking a line judge with a ball following a point during the first set.
Djokovic, then World No. 1 and favourite to win the title, was becoming frustrated after squandering three set points when Carreno Busta served at 4-5, 0-40, then suffering a fall. Having dropped serve to trail 5-6, he swatted a ball reasonably hard to the back of the court, inadvertently striking a female line judge in her throat.
Djokovic instantly ran to the line judge after hearing her screaming in pain.
Tournament referee Soeren Friemel came out on to the Arthur Ashe Stadium and spoke to chair umpire Aurelie Tourte and Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor, before talking to the Serbian.
Djokovic made the point that he had not intended to hit the official and was overheard to say “she doesn’t have to go to hospital for this”. However, the decision had been made and he was disqualified.
Djokovic lost all the ranking points earned from the event and was fined the $250,000 — his prize money for reaching round four.
Not the first time for Tsitsipas
This is not the first time Tsitsipas came close to being disqualified in such manner. A similar incident happened during his third-round defeat against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, eventual runner-up, at 2022 Wimbledon.
After losing the second set, Tsitsipas swiped a ball in frustration and it whistled past the head of a spectator sitting below his box. Kyrgios asked chair umpire Damien Dumusois to default the Greek. Tsitsipas did receive a code violation but wasn’t defaulted.