COMMENTARY: Double fault at the U.S Open


The view from high inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Image credit: TigerPuppala, via Wikimedia Commons

Nicolo Manzo

French tennis player Alize Cornet’s shirt wasn’t the only thing that seemed to be backwards at the U.S. Open this past week.

In a heavily criticized move, Cornet was issued a code violation after she removed her backwards shirt to turn it around. Cornet had taken a heat break during which she changed shirts. She then mistakenly put her shirt on backwards. In fixing the problem, Cornet didn’t even fully remove the shirt and was wearing a sports bra.

Cornet’s treatment set up an apparent double standard. On several occasions, top flight male players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have removed their shirts entirely while on the court. While Cornet was wearing a sports bra, male players are often seen bare-chested in front of the entire arena. No one seems to have a problem with the practice when the male players do it.

The U.S. Open has since apologized for the way the situation was handled, but it seemed too little too late. The situation was doubly bad as tennis had just gotten over the Serena Williams catsuit controversy.

The Cornet incident wasn’t the only one at the tournament.

In a match between Nick Kyrgios and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the chair umpire made the head-scratching move of coming down from his chair to give what many described as a pep talk to Kyrgios.

Kyrgios, who has had lack of effort issues in the past, had already dropped the first set 4-6 to Herbert. Kyrgios seemed to be back to his old ways. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani descended from his post and told Kyrgios “I want to help you. I’ve seen your matches; you’re great for the sport.”

Following the inappropriate pep talk, Kyrgios went on to dominate the remainder of the match. He went on to win 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-0.

After the match, the U.S. Open released a statement that in part said the umpire was concerned for Kyrgios medically. They have since said that Lahyani went “beyond protocol.”

Regardless of the sentiments, Herbert rightfully was upset over the incident. He released a statement of his own in response.

I’m all for second chances, but what baffles me is why an umpire would ever find it appropriate to coach a player in the midst of a match. In addition, why would an umpire want to give advice to a clearly disinterested player over one who is giving his all to win a match?

The U.S. Open umpires double faulted this week. The first fault showed an alarming disparity between treatment of male and female players and the second showed a general misunderstanding of the role of an umpire altogether.

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Twitter: @NManzoTWW