LONDON - No matter what David Nalbandian achieves in his career, it is unlikely he will ever forget a moment of madness that left a linesman bloodied, an angry crowd feeling short-changed and an opponent bewildered.
|Line judge Andrew McDougall holds his injured leg after David Nalbandian of Argentina kicked a hoarding during his men's singles final match against Marin Cilic of Croatia at the Queen's Club tennis tournament in London June 17, 2012. Nalbandian lost the match by default. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett, Reuters.
The Argentine has long had a reputation for being a hot-head and 10 years after being thrown out of the Vina del Mar tournament in Chile for hurling a torrent of verbal abuse at a linesman, he was disqualified from the Queen's Club final on Sunday for injuring a line judge.
A decade ago when Nalbandian exploded after a line call went against him, the incident went largely unnoticed since he was then a little-known 20-year-old yet to make his mark on the international stage.
But the 2002 Wimbledon finalist had no smoke screen to hide behind on Sunday when he lashed out in front of 12,000 fans and millions of television viewers.
Nalbandian was leading 7-6 3-3 in the Queen's final against Marin Cilic but, after being broken in the seventh game, a red mist descended over the Argentine and he slammed his right foot into a wooden advertising board which disintegrated and created a nasty gash on linesman Andrew McDougall's left leg.
A shocked McDougall yelled and instantly clutched his leg. When he rolled up his beige trousers, blood was trickling down his shin.
As soon as tournament supervisor Tom Barnes saw the extent of the injury, Nalbandian was given his marching orders.
"Once I saw the injury...I didn't have any other option," Barnes, who has been an ATP tournament supervisor for 22 years, told reporters.
Asked if he had ever seen an official injured so badly by the actions of a player, he added with a wry smile: "No, I can't say I have. I think the other times it's been less bloody."
Coincidentally, Barnes was also the official in charge who defaulted Nalbandian in 2002.
Tournament director Chris Kermode added: "Anyone who saw it...it was very clear. It was sort of a red card in football. You're off."
The problem was the some sections of the crowd, who had been sitting behind the linesman, would not have seen the 30-year-old's act of petulance and could not understand why the final, which according to Cilic was "just starting to hot up", was abruptly halted.
The fans booed, whistled and chanted "play on" but it was match over.
"David certainly did not mean for this to happen, however, the rules are very clear in a situation like this and causing injury to someone is an automatic default for any player," Brad Drewett, ATP executive chairman and president, said.
While Croatian Cilic summed up the episode as something that "isn't going to happen (again) in next 100 years", Nalbandian was left to join a long list of luminaries in tennis's 'hall of shame'.
Serena Williams and John McEnroe are two high-profile members of the 'defaulters' club' but the Americans both got into trouble for injuring the sensitivities of officials with their colourful language rather than causing any bodily harm.
Britain's Tim Henman is also an offender, having been bounced out of a Wimbledon men's doubles match after accidentally hitting a ball girl in a fit of anger.
However, when it comes to players who have been defaulted twice, the club gets even more exclusive - with Andre Agassi being one of its few incumbents.
For Nalbandian, the penalties are starting to pile up as it was only five months ago that he was slapped with an $8000 fine for throwing water over an Australian Open official - an accusation he denied - following a controversial second-round defeat.
He now faces a fine of up to $10,000 despite already forfeiting his prize money (at least $56,800) and ranking points for the week.
"I know (what) I did (is) a mistake, 100 percent. I feel very sorry for the guy. I didn't want to do that. But sometimes you get angry and you cannot control those moments," said Nalbandian.
He also lashed out at the men's governing body during the presentation ceremony, suggesting the ATP does not look after player interests, which left observers wondering if Nalbandian could be slapped with an additional fine or even banned from the tour.
"I think you have to give the guy a chance to let off some steam there. I mean, he didn't intend to do what he did," Barnes added. "He intended to kick the box but he did not intend to hurt the guy.
"When he realised that he had, he felt bad. Then when he realised the consequences of that, he felt even worse." (Editing by Alison Wildey)