Danger lurks for tennis line judges

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga checks on a line judge who was hit by Mardy Fish's 118-mph serve.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.



You wouldn’t think a tennis line judge would have a dangerous job. But two weeks after a player was defaulted for having a temper tantrum that injured a line judge, another line judge was hurt Monday.



A Wimbledon line judge is struck in the eye by a 118-mph serve from Mardy Fish but still makes her call.

This time, at Wimbledon. American Mardy Fish hit a 118-mph serve into the right eye of a female line judge.

Fish led Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-3 in the first set and crushed a serve up the middle, wide. The line judge yelled that the ball was out, and the next sound you heard was a thud off her face.

Tsonga turned to make sure she was OK: “Do you want a chair?” he asked.

She waved him off, apparently embarrassed. But then she wobbled and said, “Eyes are watering.”

Tsonga turned to the chair umpire, winced and then waved for someone to come help. The woman was helped off.

A fluke? Well, two weeks ago, in the final of a Wimbledon warm-up tournament, player David Nalbandian, who was leading, was angry after losing his serve. He was standing near a line judge, looking for something to kick.

No, he didn’t kick the judge. He wasn’t even angry at the judge. But Nalbandian kicked the low box that goes around the judge’s chair. A board shattered into the line judge’s leg, and he started to bleed.

Nalbandian was defaulted, and Scotland Yard began a criminal investigation.

And that brought up debates and comparisons/contrasts from a few years ago at the US Open, when Serena Williams, unhappy with a line judge’s call of footfault, waved her racket in the judge’s face and threatened to shove a ball down her throat.

Suggestion for line judges: Forget the blue blazers with white piping. Try body armor.

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