Professional Tennis Fouls
7 June 2015
ATP Tennis has its own culture of gaining unfair advantage over opponents.
In football they are called "Professional Fouls" but in tennis they are now characterised as "Melbourne Moments” so named after the legendary antics in Melbourne, of the world's undisputed best player, Novak Djokovic.
In football there is a FIFA fair play award. Is that Ironic?
I do recall Michael Owen receiving that award for failing to dive in the penalty area in Argentina when he had so many opportunities to do so.
Made me personally proud to be British.
So who might be the Michael Owen of Professional ATP Tennis and who is most likely to take a dive?
Officially The ATP has recognised Roger Federer with "The Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award" and has done so almost routinely for several years and rightfully so.
Andy Murray is the current recipient of the ATP "Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award" for fund-raising exhibitions and campaigns over the past two years, for the work of Unicef, "United for Wildlife" and "Malaria No More".
He is also the most likely player to become the heir to Federer's Fair Play award because of his seniority in the game and his unblemished record of Fair Play.
The ATP is not free to discount players for the Fair Play award, but I am, so I will.
Yes you've guessed it. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal do not qualify for the fair play award for the reasons I will set out below if it were not at all obvious.
Mr Djokovic is very happy to be generous with line calls in a match that he can’t lose, but he did not do so with Wavwrinka in Melbourne, and who he plays today in the Roland Garros final. The featured video on this page speaks for itself.
The changes of tennis momentum are critical in terms of the outcome of any competitive tennis match. Professional player exploit momentum when it is in their favour or keep focused when the match is not going their way.
Given two players of equal ability; the most focused would normally prevail.
The rules on hindrance recognises the players need to focus on his or her game and the capacity of another player to interfere with that concentration, in order to alter the momentum of the match, and affect the outcome of the match.
WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE?
All players adopt any number of positive methods of maintaining that focus.
Avoidance of eye and verbal contact with the opponent is exercised by all players. Nadal has his bizarre routines, Djokovic has his ball bouncing, Federer has his stony face, Murray has his disregard of all such routines.
WHAT IS THE GREY AREA?
Jim Courier, as Davis Cup captain for the USA has criticised Nadal for his prep antics which he regards as disrespectful of his opponents, albeit tolerated thus far perhaps because of his status. Slow play by Nadal is not necessarily intended to hinder his opponents, but would in fact certainly hinder his opponents.
WHAT IS UNACCEPTABLE?
The player least likely to be criticised by the ATP establishment because of his No 1 status is the untouchable Novak Djokovic.
His legendary ball bouncing has now been tamed by the new time rules but the bouncing continues nevertheless when he is confronted by a challenging opponent. His tactical spurious medical time-outs are his demeaning trademark device employed only when he is particularly stressed or vulnerable to a change of momentum.
Novak Djokovic gave us the shorthand term "Melbourne Moments" to define such unsportmanslike play. That would be the “professional foul” of tennis.
To his credit Andy Murray refused to criticise Djokovic for his "Melbourne Moments" in Paris this week, when invited to do so by journalists.
I would like to dedicate this article to my Tennis Friday Group, all of whom endorse fair play and agree with my analysis.