Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bondy: Tennis tirades target lineswomen

Antonelli/News Andy Roddick harasses the poor lineswoman who calls him for a foot fault, game after game, but pardons a male lines judge for the same call, minutes later. Related NewsNo American men in tennis' top tenBondy: Future of U.S. tennis looks blightRoddick OK flying under the radar at OpenBon Jovi's son gets pro advice from Miami Heat starTipsarevic eliminates Roddick from OpenFish swims with current at U.S. Open

Andy Roddick's tantrum on Wednesday night - an extended, five-act melodrama - was in its own way as nauseating and ill-tempered as the one performed by Serena Williams a year ago. Roddick picked a long, dumb fight with a lineswoman, when there was really no battle to be fought in the first place.

And after too many examples of this in recent years, by too many players, you now have to wonder whether Roddick would have done the same if it were a man who called him on the foot fault.

Because it sure didn't look that way, when he got buddy-buddy with the chair umpire and pardoned a male lines judge for the same call, minutes later.

This is how the silliness started: Roddick clearly, clumsily stepped on the service line during a relatively meaningless first serve and was correctly called for a foot fault. Out of sheer petulance, he then demanded to know which foot was the offender.

Roddick knew the answer of course. It was the left, his natural takeoff foot. But the flustered lines judge answered it was his right foot, and so Roddick harassed the poor woman for no good reason, game after game, questioning her intelligence. It came across as the long-winded action of a bully who has lost his way on a tennis court, who can't seem to seize points anymore and likely will never win a second major in his front-loaded career.

Roddick, frustrated on his way to an otherwise spiritless four-set loss to Janko Tipsarevic, wouldn't stop his bashing. The male chair umpire, Enric Molina, allowed it to continue unabated, with no code violation. Molina even seemed to encourage this nonsense on one occasion, agreeing with Roddick that his right foot had never crossed the line in any of the matches he had umpired.

It was all a pathetic scene - two old pals ganging up on one woman doing her job. And when Roddick was called on his next foot fault by a male judge, he simply put thumbs up and continued on his merry way.

When in doubt, target a lineswoman. Serena did it last year, and in the recent past there have been too many examples - Andre Agassi at Wimbledon in 2001 may be the very worst - of players berating women lines judges, out of sheer disrespect for their authority.

You can't blame the USTA or the Open for any of this. Officials here have made real attempts to even the playing field. The lines judges break down 59-41%, male-female, more equitable than in the past. Half the chair umpires are now women, and 36 of them so far have umped 32% of men's singles and doubles matches at this tournament.

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