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Tennis

Tennis Player Wipes Out Contested Ball Mark And Celebrates Opponent’s Retirement, To The Disgust Of Her Peers

2:58 PM EDT on July 19, 2023

Tennis at the junior levels is so suffused with cheating that there's a term of art, "hooking," for calling a fair ball out of bounds. Theoretically the existence of line judges and umpires insulates the pro game from the very worst sportsmanship, but world No. 548 Amarissa Toth found a way to restore it, to the disgust of her colleagues.

Toth, a 20-year-old Hungarian player who had yet to win a tour-level match, received a wild card for the Budapest Grand Prix this week. On Tuesday she played world No. 45 Zhang Shuai in the first round, and at 5-5 in the first set, Zhang hit a ball that was called out by a linesperson. The umpire descended from her chair to confirm the call, but on the clay, the ball left a mark indicating it was in:

Zhang called for the supervisor, a common appeal when a player feels wronged by an umpire's decision. The supervisor arrived on court and deferred to the umpire's judgment. Zhang's protest continued for several minutes and soured the crowd; someone shouted "Time violation," which had Toth giggling. One point later, Toth walked toward the ball mark and, as Zhang shouted for her to leave it intact, wiped it away with her sneaker.

"If ball is out, why'd she do it?" Zhang asked, implying that her opponent also knew the ball was in. "Because you're making a problem, that's why," Toth said. (Since video of the incident has been circulating in a chopped-up format, it's worth clarifying that Toth wiped the mark after, not before, the umpire and supervisor had both chimed in and play continued.)

Zhang lost that game, wept during the next changeover, then retired from the match. She shook hands with the umpire and her opponent, then pointed furiously at the crowd. Toth threw up her hands in celebration. Reviews of that celebration came in from fellow pros: "Absolutely disgusting behavior"; "Zero respect for this Toth girl"; "What a shame"; "Very bad referee, very bad sportsmanship"; "This is not acceptable"; "That Toth girl should be banned from the tour"; "Just wow"; "Nahh the celebration"; "Non trovo le parole." Vomiting emojis abound.

Zhang, a 34-year-old veteran who recently discussed conflict with the Chinese Tennis Federation and the mental strain of being away from home, has now lost 13 matches in a row. You can watch the full incident here.

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