April 13, 2024

ATP restore Rublev’s ranking points and prize money from Dubai — after he was chucked out

In what amounts to a rare mea culpa from a sports governing body, leaders of the men’s professional tennis tour announced on Monday that Andrey Rublev will get to keep the money and the rankings points he earned before his confrontation with a line judge got him defaulted from the tournament in Dubai. 

Rublev, the 26-year-old Russian who is ranked fifth in the world, was playing Alexander Bublik in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Friday when, with the score knotted at 5-5 in the third set, Rublev yelled at a line judge he felt had missed a call on a crucial point. Rublev’s face was inches away from line judge, who remained stoic. 

(Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

Another line judge approached the chair umpire to report that Rublev had used an expletive when he addressed the line judge he thought had missed the call. That intervening line judge claimed to be a Russian speaker. The chair umpire brought out the tournament supervisor, who quickly decided to default Rublev from the match, ignoring Rublev’s denial that he had used an obscenity and his requests to listen to a tape of the confrontation. 

ATP rules require that a player who is defaulted from a match lose whatever money and rankings points he has received. In Rublev’s case, that meant the 200 points and about $160,000 he had earned for making the semifinals.

The incident sparked outrage, mostly directed at Rublev, who has a reputation as a hothead but mainly directs his anger toward himself. At the same time, it raised questions about why line judges were on the court at all, given that most ATP tournaments have shifted to electronic line calling and all are required to do so for next year.

Some players, including Bublik, were especially angry, believing that Rublev was being judged and punished without any due process. 

“We have this proof every week that when the tournament is with electronic line calling, we don’t have these troubles,” Bublik said in his post-match press conference. “This is what we need to understand: we cannot take players away, but we can easily take away the umpires. And that would solve many issues.”

(Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

Rublev appealed the ruling over the weekend and, on Monday, the ATP announced a significantly reduced penalty. 

The ATP has reviewed an appeal from Andrey Rublev, following the player’s default from the semifinals of the ATP 500 tournament in Dubai,” the organization said in a statement. “The appeal process took into consideration testimonies from the player, officials, as well as a review of all available video and audio materials.

“The appeals committee concluded that, beyond forfeiting the match, customary penalties associated with a default — namely loss of rankings points and prize money for the entire tournament — would be disproportionate in this case. As such, Rublev retains semifinal points and prize money for the tournament. A fine of $36,400 for the code violation remains.”

In a statement, Rublev thanked the appeal committee for changing course and expressed hope for a different process in the future. “I want to thank the appeal committee for approving my appeal and changing course on the ATP’s initial decision of disqualifying me from the Dubai semifinal and taking away the rankings points and prize money I earned last week. I hope that in the future, the ATP will take a closer look at this rule and make changes to it, so that an official can’t force a match outcome without having clear evidence and not letting the player have a video review. While I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to finish my semifinal in Dubai, I am grateful for all the support I had from you the last two days, I received a lot of messages. Thank you to everyone supporting me, I promise I will learn from this and will try to be a better player and better person.”

The fine makes it clear that Rublev did something wrong, but nothing on the level of an act that should have got him tossed out of a tournament when he was two games away from making the final. 

The ATP rulebook allows for fines of up to $20,000 for incidents of verbal abuse or unsportsmanlike conduct — in other words, Rublev’s behavior likely should have warranted a warning and then a one-point penalty, rather than an automatic default. 

Bublik lost the final on Saturday to Ugo Humbert of France. 

(Top photo: Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

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