Sunday, July 08, 2018

Djokovic, Edmund, 2018: Double bounce: Lots more to say…


I watched short clips of the incredible moment at Wimbledon 2018, where the umpire gave a point to Kyle Edmund after he hit a ball on the second bounce. I was sure there was more to it than that brief clip, so I watched the fourth set in which the incident occurred. Adding some background makes this triple, or maybe even quadruple umpiring error even more interesting.

For those of you who have not seen the clip, Djokovic hit a soft ball to Edmund’s forehand when Edmund was moving away to guard his other side. Edmund desperately shifted course and scooped under the ball, hitting a nasty cross shot that Djokovic could not possibly reach. Edmund’s cross shot, however, was out (it was not called out). Edmund dropped his racket in the followthrough, and his momentum took him to the net. Edmund wound up with both hands on the net as Djokovic began to argue with the umpire. The commentators believed the umpire was claiming that Edmund had gotten his racket under the ball before it bounced, and the ball came off the edge of the frame. Djokovic said later he simply argued that Edmund’s shot was impossible unless he hit the ball after the second bounce. (The video shows clearly that the ball bounced twice before Edmund hit it.)

Quite amazingly, this umpiring error cost Djokovic two points. The umpire assessed a penalty for delaying the game while he argued. It’s a good thing for that umpire that Djokovic managed to win the match.

First of all, why didn’t Edmund concede the point? It is possible, as he insisted afterwards, that he had no idea what had happened. But on the previous point, Edmund’s sense of injustice must have risen to astronomical levels. Novak Djokovic had hit a serve that the linesman called out (a long ball), just as Edmund swung at it. Edmund’s return was long. The umpire overruled the line judge (correctly, I believe) and called the serve in. Edmund asked to replay the point. The umpire ruled that even if the ball had been called in, Edmund failed to return it, and gave Djokovic the point. Edmund argued that he would have hit the ball better if it had been called in.

This is an umpire’s judgment call, and you could see it made Edmund furious. When he went after that ball on the double bounce, I would not blame him for feeling that the universe owed him one point. Now it is clear that Djokovic won the point, because:
  1. The ball double-bounced
  2. Edmund hit it out (Djokovic could not see this, and he did not challenge; the Hawkeye showed it was out)
  3. Edmund dropped his racket hitting the ball. He could have been called for throwing his racket.
  4. Edmund’s forward motion took him into the net. The umpire should have noticed this before Djokovic occupied his attention.
Why didn’t the linesman call Edmund’s shot out? The commentators on TennisTV believed the linesman stopped paying attention as soon as the ball double-bounced. It was obvious to the linesman that the point was over.

What fascinated me most was the aftermath. If you have a chance to see a replay of the rest of the match, you will see two incredibly angry players fighting every point. Usually, players impress me with their deep concentration, but here, they both felt unfairly treated and furious.
Kyle Edmund is a British player, and this incident occurred on his home ground in Wimbledon. Before this point was played, the crowd seemed almost divided in their applause. But the crowd had no patience for Djokovic’s argument with umpire. After play continued, they roared with approval every time Edmund scored a point.

I can’t wait to see the aftershocks from this incident. Some people called Edmund a cheater for failing to concede the point. (But please note, it is possible he really did not realize what he had done.) I personally think Edmund should have conceded the point for touching the net.
The umpire is going to be awesomely criticized. And please note that the bad call just happened to favor the home player.
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