The ATP Cup has experienced its first controversy, with Belgian player Steve Darcis fuming after a ball girl cost him a first serve.
Darcis was in action against Alexander Cozbinov of Moldova in the first match of the inaugural event in Sydney on Friday when the bizarre incident occurred.
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Darcis was preparing to serve when he had to abort because a ball girl was still running back to the net after retrieving a ball.
The chair umpire then docked Darcis of his first serve, leaving the Belgian fuming.
“You have to wait for her to come back as well,” umpire John Blom explained to Darcis.
“If he (Cozbinov) is ready and I am ready, what’s the problem? She’s still one-metre from her space,” Darcis replied.
“On this occasion you should have waited for her to come back. In this situation it’s a second serve,” Blom said.
“She has to move back and you have to wait for that.”
Commentators were a bit perplexed by the scenes.
“It does seem like a very minor point to be getting upset about,” one said.
Players critical of ATP Cup as new event kicks off
Superstars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal said Thursday there was little point in having two men’s team tennis competitions so close together and suggested the new ATP Cup should merge with the Davis Cup.
The $22 million ATP Cup kicked off its inaugural edition on Friday, replacing a number of previous Australian Open warm-up tournaments including the fan-favourite Hopman Cup.
It comes six weeks after the revamped Davis Cup, which also has countries playing each other in a round-robin format, was held in Madrid.
Canadian Denis Shapovalov suggested Thursday that the two events – one run by the men’s tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and the other by the International Tennis Federation – should combine.
When asked about the Canadian’s comments, Djokovic, who heads the ATP players’ council, agreed.
“We need to have one Super World Cup event, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
“That’s not going to happen next year as well. But if the two sides, the ITF, the Davis Cup, and the ATP get together very quickly, it can happen possibly for 2022.
“I hope it will happen because it’s kind of hard to get top players to commit to play both events, the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup.
“And it’s six weeks apart, so they’re not really helping each other in terms of marketing, in terms of the value of the event.”
Djokovic’s concerns were shared by World No.1 Nadal, who also questioned the timing of the events.
“Yeah, it’s confusing to have two World Cups of tennis in one month. For me personally that’s not the ideal situation for our sport, but that’s how it works today,” he said in Perth.
Asked if the two should be combined into one world championship, he replied: “I think that tennis deserves something like this.”
France’s Nicolas Mahut also said having two men’s team competitions was “too much”.
“Obviously, we don’t need two competitions the same way. Two team competitions is too much,” he said.