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Something Rotten in the Desert: A WTA Debacle

Indian Wells may be a desert oasis, but it was hardly a bastion of fair play during Stadium 3’s lone women’s single match on Thursday. Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone looked to be cruising against qualifier Zhu Lin, capturing the opening set without the loss of a game.

Zhu is a promising talent from China with a solid ground game; the 21-year-old has made steady progress in 2015 and looks poised to crack the Top 100 in the near future. Schiavone, by contrast, is on a decidedly downward slope; barring a run to the quarterfinals of Antwerp, the former World No. 4 has hardly looked like the world beater she once was.

Slowly hitting through the Italian’s heavy top spin, Zhu engineered a service break in the opening game of the second set en route to a 5-3 lead, earning two set points on the Schiavone serve.

Seen in the above clip, the crafty veteran hit a deft drop shot that sent Zhu scrambling. In her zeal to get the ball back, she framed a return, causing the ball to bounce on her side of the court first, then up and over the net, dribbling off the netcord. Both Zhu and the crowd immediately reacted as if the point had been lost, but to everyone’s surprise, umpire Ali Nili called the point – and the set – in her favor.

The Italian looked for a revision from the chair, who could only advise her to ask Zhu if the ball had, in fact, touched her end of the court. From Schiavone’s reaction, it’s clear that Zhu claimed she couldn’t remember.

“This is going to TV,” she said, reminding her less experience opponent of the ever-present cameras, broadcasting the kerfuffle live around the world.

As the Chinesewoman took her seat, the 34-year-old pressed on: “It’s not good to lie; you’re 18 years old!” Zhu is actually 21, but that honestly only strengthens Schiavone’s sentiment.

The moment was somewhat reminiscent of an incident between World No. 1 Serena Williams and Maria José Martinez Sanchez, who claimed a service break after a ball bounced off her arm and back onto her racquet. But where Williams was able to right the wrong by winning that 2009 French Open encounter, Schiavone faded in the final set, losing the match, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Where another player might have been more sheepish in the face of such a victory, Zhu raised her arms and shrieked with joy as a final Schiavone forehand flew long.

Just as Schiavone warned, the match did indeed go to TV, where fellow players like Danka Kovinic could watch and judge for themselves. For her part, Kovinic called the act “shameful” in a tweet written in Bosnian.

Tennis is an unforgiving sport, and hardly a cheap one to play. At what cost did Zhu Lin may earn the victory, and the prize money that came with it?

What do you think of the incident? Sound off in the comments!

About David Kane (137 Articles)
Sr. Digital Content Producer, WTA Networks.

8 Comments on Something Rotten in the Desert: A WTA Debacle

  1. Shameful. I am surprised Schiavone offered her a handshake after the match.


  2. In any case no one should lie, but it happens often. However, its possible it could be because of possible language barrier.


  3. I loved Schiavone’s scolding. Helps that she was spot on.


  4. Lookinthemirror // March 16, 2015 at 12:48 am // Reply

    It’s a Chinese player and all the bigots showed up. There’s the possible language barrier, and there’s the possible lack of experience in dealing with these situations. How about Raonic? huh? He didn’t have the benefits of doubt of all these did he? And what did he do when he touched the net in Montreal when playing Del Potro? Do you bigots remember?


    • Lookinthemirror: Your response is pathetic and only furthers bigotry in general. The video clearly shows that Zhu’s shot hit the ground. Zhu knew it and her reaction proved that she knew it. She then lied overtly after the chair umpire mistakenly gave her the point. This is called dishonesty and poor sportsmanship. It has absolutely nothing to do with the country she was born in, her race or the language she speaks.


  5. To me there are no excuses! Players capable of lying this way are just miserable human beings inside, they only need to be ignored as humans, blacklisted. I know I’m strict, but this is what I did with Azarenka, of whom I used to be a fan, but then after watching what she did in her match against Sloane Stephens in Aus Open 2013 I blacklisted her too, I don’t even wanna know what her results and rank are now.
    I’m a player myself, and based on the video there is NO WAY Zhu didn’t realize how the shot went, and language barrier my ass, she knew exactly what the discussion was about, but instead of showing maturity she went straight to her seat with the same face of an annoyed spoiled little bitchy brat! Shame on her for managing to let the world know what kind of a cheater she is so early in her career!


  6. I don’t know how I’ve missed this.

    Totally incredible… Good thing Errani punished this kid in the next round, but maybe WTA should fine her somehow, if their regulations permits it…


  7. Mats Johansson // April 4, 2015 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    Sad to see a player benefitting by cheating. There should be instant replay as in other sports.


4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Shame on Zhu: Chinese Cheats and Gets away with it - PureTennisPureTennis — Your source for everything about tennis! — News and tweets about everything tennis — Tennis scores, news, ATP, WTA
  2. Shame on Zhu: Chinese Qualifier Goes into Denial Mode to Score Controversial Set Point - PureTennisPureTennis — Your source for everything about tennis! — News and tweets about everything tennis — Tennis scores, news, ATP, WTA
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