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.
Zhu wins, will not be receiving the Tim Smyczek Sportsmanship Award.—
Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) March 12, 2015
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!