David Nalbandian, the Argentinian tennis star and former world number 3, was disqualified from the final of the Aegon Championships on Sunday after a violent tantrum that left a tennis official injured.
The annual Aegon tournament, traditionally the warm-up event for Wimbledon, came to a controversial end after Nalbandian angrily kicked an advertising hoarding, which in turn collapsed and cut the leg of linesman Andrew McDougall. McDougall was left with a nasty gash as he hobbled off court for medical treatment, and Nalbandian was immediately defaulted, handing the title to Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Though he’d won the first set, Nalbandian was having a poor second, having just dropped serve to trail 4-3. After another of his returns went long, the red mist descended and the Argentinian booted a plywood hoarding, accidentally following through to connect with the linesman. As the video below shows, Nalbandian seems to realise his mistake instantly, and tries to comfort the injured official.
While some in the crowd jeered the decision to disqualify Nalbandian and end the final early, tournament supervisor Tom Barnes explained that the linesman’s injury meant there could be no other outcome:
“Once I saw the injury, it was not a judgment call. I didn’t have any other option.”
The incident has cost Nalbandian his runner-up prize money of £36,144 ($57,000), as well as his 150 ranking points. He could face a further fine from tennis governing body, the ATP, though he will be free to play at Wimbledon, which starts next Monday.
The show wasn’t quite over yet, however. Nalbandian began his post-match interview humbly enough, though even this took a ludicrous change of direction when the player tried to blame the incident on the ATP, who he said made players play too many games:
“When I hit the fence, I didn’t want to do it as bad as it was. But that’s the way it is. Sometimes you cannot control that few seconds and I made a mistake. Sometimes the ATP puts a lot of pressure on the players and sometimes you get injured because you play on a dangerous surface. Nothing happens, no one pays for that.”
As for poor linesman McDougall, he was attended to by a St John Ambulance team and a doctor who had been in the crowd. No further treatment was required, according to tournament officials.
Here’s Nalbandian’s outburst in full: