Nalbandian fumes over call in loss to Isner
John Isner's latest five-set, marathon win was overshadowed by David Nalbandian's outrage at a controversial call.
The towering American rallied from a two-sets-to-one deficit to beat Nalbandian 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 10-8 in a second-round match at the Australian Open that lasted for 4 hours, 41 minutes on Wednesday, including a 99-minute deciding set.
Although the match didn't go nearly as long as Isner's amazing 11-hour, 5-minute battle with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 - which the 6-foot-9 (2.06-meter) American won 70-68 in the fifth set - it certainly wasn't short on drama after an enranged Nalbandian complained that his request to challenge a line call was rejected by chair umpire Kader Nouni.
Like Wimbledon, the Australian Open doesn't use a tiebreaker to decide the final set in a five-set match. When the score reached 6-6 in the fifth, Isner and Nalbandian had already been on court in front of a packed house at Margaret Court Arena for 4 hours and the sun was beginning to set.
Neither player had any break points until the 17th game when the Argentine veteran got three chances on Isner's serve.
The American fended off the first two. On the third, he hit a serve down the middle that was called out. Nouni, however, overruled the call, saying it was an ace.
Nalbandian approached the umpire's chair to protest the ruling and then went to study the mark where the ball had landed to decide whether to challenge the call by checking the Hawk-Eye video replay. But when he raised his finger to challenge, Nouni said he'd taken too long and awarded the point to Isner, making the score deuce.
''I mean, it's ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpires,'' Nalbandian after the match. ''What is this? What did the ATP do for this? I didn't understand in that situation, 8-all, break point. I mean, can you be that stupid to do that in that moment?''
The 30-year-old former Wimbledon finalist was even more pointed when asked by the Spanish-language media whether he thought the ruling was personal.
''It's not personal, no,'' Nalbandian said. Umpires ''don't have the capacity make a sound judgment in the important moments of a match. They're bad.''
Tournament officials later clarified that a request for a challenge must be made in a timely manner - a judgment that is left to the umpire's discretion.
Isner said he didn't really know what was going on when Nouni rejected the challenge.
''Obviously the ump didn't think he challenged in time. But maybe because of the crowd noise the ump, you know, couldn't hear it or whatnot,'' he said. ''That break went in my favor, for sure.''
Amid booing and jeering from the crowd, Nalbandian quickly dropped the next two points to lose the game and fall behind 8-9. In the next game, Isner broke the Argentine for the win after a terrific exchange of volleys at the net, prompting a furious Nalbandian to slam his racket into the court.
Isner dominated on his serve throughout the match, finishing with 43 aces and only two double-faults. But the contest was so close, Nalbandian scored more total points than the American, 187 to 181.
The match offered a bit of redemption for Isner, who was defeated by Marin Cilic in an epic five-setter last year at the Australian Open - on the same court.
''I told myself I didn't want to repeat that,'' he said. ''It felt really, really good to win it.''