By Nick Zaccardi
PARIS — Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues was at the center of another odd instance in her first-round loss at the French Open on Monday, referencing Maria Sharapova in an argument with a chair umpire two weeks after her infamous ball-fluffing episode against Serena Williams.
The point in question: Medina Garrigues was broken at 4-all in the second set of a 6-3, 6-4 loss to No. 6 Li Na. She originally won the point on a ball she hit that was just wide but called in.
Li approached the chair, but there was no challenge. Chair umpire Louise Engzell reversed course anyway — after a delay of at least 15 seconds — and awarded the point to Li, announcing, “Due to an out call from Mademoiselle Medina Garrigues, she loses the point.”
The 518-page WTA rulebook mentions the Hindrance Rule on page 122. A deliberate hindrance of an opponent results in the loss of a point. Medina Garrigues yelled in frustration when she hit the ball, which clipped the net and landed way out of Li’s reach. That was enough, Engzell deemed, to award the point to Li.
The situation involving Medina Garrigues, Engzell and Li was confusing all around. ESPN2’s Pam Shriver called it bizarre, fans whistled and Li approached Engzell but was interrupted by Medina Garrigues.
“You win the point, don’t worry,” Medina Garrigues said to Li, obviously frustrated. “OK?”
Medina Garrigues then turned to Engzell.
“Sharapova is screaming like crazy, and it doesn’t matter?” she argued, among other points, referring to the sounds Sharapova makes as she follows through.
She expanded after the match.
“[Engzell] is supposed to say that when I hit the ball, I say, like, ‘No,’” Medina Garrigues said. “I think there is a rule that you can’t say that. So she decided to take out the point.
“I think it’s ridiculous. If I say ‘all,’ nothing happens. If I say ‘no,’ you take the point [from me]. But it’s part of the rules. I can say that I think it’s a little confusing rule, but it’s the rule. I have to accept. But I’m totally disappointed about what happened there because [Li] didn’t have any comprehension about the situation. Li Na wasn’t close to taking the ball. I don’t think I confused her or disrupted her.”
Medina Garrigues, the WTA’s active leader in clay-court match wins, lost to Li for the first time on clay in four meetings.
Earlier this month, she memorably became the seventh player to take a 6-0 set off Williams, in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open. Even more newsworthy, she rubbed tennis balls across her racket to gain an advantage during a changeover.
“It’s the first time I did it,” she said, laughing. “Why not? Imagination that I have in that moment. I will not do it anymore.”
The WTA made sure of that.
“They told me that I cannot do it,” Medina Garrigues said. “I did not know before [that it is not allowed], but there are a lot of players who make the ball small [by rubbing it] with the T-shirt. I think every player has a chance to try to have the ball how you want. You choose your ball because you want to have the best one for your game.”
Williams laughed it off, too.
“I don’t know if it’s right or it’s wrong,” she told reporters in Rome two weeks ago. “I’ve never had a problem with Medina. She’s always been nice to me, so I just have to assume the best that it wasn’t on purpose.”