I have never heard of anyone losing a match like this!
Hantuchova loses match on time violation penalty
By Matthew Cronin
SAN DIEGO, California, July 31 (Reuters) - Seventh seed Daniela Hantuchova lost in bizarre circumstances at the $750,000 Acura Classic on Wednesday, receiving a time violation on match point to hand Japan's Ai Sugiyama a 6-4 1-6 7-5 second-round victory.
Officials said it was the first time they could remember a match finishing with a point penalty being handed out on match point.
WTA rules state that a player must start the next point 20 seconds after the previous point has been completed.
However, unlike in code violations where a player is defaulted from a match after three infringements, a player can receive multiple point penalties for time wasting.
Hantuchova received a warning for a time violation in the second game of the third set before being given a point penalty in the 11th game.
Then, serving at 5-6 and match point down, umpire Denis Overberg gave the Slovak another point penalty to hand Sugiyama victory in the second round encounter at La Costa Resort and Spa.
"Denis acted within the rules," said WTA supervisor Clare Wood. "As long as I've been involved in the officiating side, I haven't heard of that happening on a match point."
Referee Billie Lipp, who has been officiating since 1974, said: "I can't recall a time violation ending a match. I know we've had a code violation end a match but the umpire isn't thinking where they are.
"He's only thinking about what the rules are and, as the match progresses, what he's telling the players and trying to be fair to both players. Unfortunately, that's what occurred."
Hantuchova, who committed 72 unforced errors in the two-hour, 13-minute contest, did not agree with the ruling.
"I was very surprised about it," said Hantuchova, who reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals earlier this month.
"It was a great match. It was a tight situation at 5-6 in the third, match point down. This is very disappointing for me. Something like this at this stage of the match is very surprising but there's nothing I can do about it now.
"I was playing the same pace I always do. I never had time violations before. I was not stalling for time deliberately. I was just thinking about what to do on the court, not thinking about these things."
The WTA tour does not have a clock with a second hand on the court and some players have complained that it is difficult to tell when they are about to commit a violation.
"Years ago they had second clocks on the court and I'm not sure why they did away with them," said Lipp, adding she had complete confidence in Overberg's ruling.
"He's very competent and we have a lot of trust in his level of officiating," Lipp said. "In tennis, you have one person in control and he has to be fair to both players. He has to follow the rules and guidelines. He doesn't have the liberty to decide."
Sugiyama said she would take the victory although it did not feel as good as if she had won in more conventional style.
"I was very surprised the way the match ended," she said. "It's true she was taking a long time between points. I didn't want to win that way but I can't do anything with it. It's the umpire's decision. I wanted to win by winning the point."
Hantuchova, who had saved two match points earlier in the set and had to sit through Sugiyama's five-minute injury timeout in the changeover before the final game, described the ruling as unfair.
"I felt I was in the match," she said. "I felt very confident coming into the tie-break. I felt I could have won but somebody came and took the match away from me. It was definitely unfair to finish such a great match like this."
Overberg was the umpire who called a point penalty against Venus Williams for causing a disturbance when the beads in the American's hair fell on to the court during a match at the 1999 Australian Open.