PARIS — Picture this: Angered by a line call, a tennis player pulls out his phone and uses it to snap a photo of the mark left in the clay by the ball.
Maybe the sort of thing that would happen at a public court, if two pals got into a tiff during a match and one wanted evidence for later – except in this case, it was a professional who did it at the French Open.
Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine set down his racket and briefly became an amateur photographer in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 loss to seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France in the first round of the Grand Slam tournament Monday.
Stakhovsky plans to show the picture to the tournament supervisor in hopes of avoiding losing some of his prize money.
“I’m now expecting a fine, actually, so I’m going to go and fight,” Stakhovsky said.
“I believe it was a bad call, it was a bad judgment. After all, we are playing on clay, where you should be clearly able to read the mark,” he added, “and unfortunately, not all of our referees are able to do so.”
During the first set on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 101st-ranked Stakhovsky hit a shot that landed right along a line. The ball was ruled out, but Stakhovsky was sure it was in.
He argued with the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, who wouldn’t change the decision. So Stakhovsky decided to gather proof for his case, getting his phone and walking over to where the spot in question was, then leaning over to get a close-up of the red clay.
“It was just spontaneous. It’s never thought through,” he said. “When you see it, you get frustrated, because you saw the ball is nowhere being out and the frustrations comes in.”
Asked by a reporter to show the photo, Stakhovsky obliged, grabbing his phone from a pocket.
“Everybody wants to see it,” he said with a chuckle.
Stakhovsky said it wasn’t even the first time he’d done this: He pulled a similar stunt during the clay-court tournament at Munich last month.
“Munich was a very close call which could go both ways, so I didn’t really bother going to the supervisor and asking. But this one is in a Grand Slam, so first of all, the fine is actually there, possibly, (and) I don’t want to get it. So I’ll try to explain myself. I don’t know if it’s going to work.”
At a clay event in Rome this month, another pro, Viktor Troicki of Serbia, ushered a TV cameraman out onto the court to get video evidence of a ball mark he was sure showed a call was incorrect.
“I saw that,” Stakhovsky said, then offered a critique of the camerawork on that occasion, saying the angle was all wrong: “They came from the side, so you couldn’t see the mark.”
Gasquet, for his part, agreed the call Monday was quite close and said he wasn’t bothered a bit by Stakhovsky’s antics.
“It’s funny. It’s not a problem,” Gasquet said. “He’s a funny guy. I think he’s one of the funniest guys in the draw. For sure, it’s not usual to see that, but I can understand he’s frustrated.”
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AP photographer Michel Spingler contributed to this report.