As the grass court season really begins in earnest this week with the traditional Wimbledon warm up events in Birmingham and at Queens Club getting underway, it is natural for tennis fans’ minds to wander to the upcoming events at SW19 later in June. However, the Queens Club event is an important one in its own right and deserves some attention of its own. Tournament organisers will be hoping that this year, however, Queens is remembered for the quality of tennis on show and will not see the same level of controversy that marred last year’s edition.
After a fairly routine tournament last year’s final saw Marin Cilic square up against David Nalbandian,and it was the Argentine’s actions in the final which will forever go down in history. Somewhat of a grass court specialist, Nalbandian had taken the first set of the final but was finding the second set more of a struggle and at a break down with the score 3-4 the Argentine’s temper reared its head. An unreturnable Cilic serve to his forehand caused Nalbandian to kick out at an advertising hoarding which surrounded a seated line judge and the following sequence of events almost beggared belief. The hoarding shattered under the force of Nalbandian’s kick and clattered into the shin of court side official Andrew McDougall, causing an inch long gash which looked even worse due to the amount of blood which was drawn. Play was immediately halted by umpire Fergus Murphy and despite the crowd’s support for Nalbandian, ATP tour supervisor Tom Barnes came onto court to speak to the Argentine and inform him of the tour’s decision to default him for “unsportsmanlike conduct” and award both the match and the championship to Cilic.
After much consternation from the crowd and attempts from broadcasters to explain the decision to TV audiences there followed three of the most awkward and unseemly post-match interviews you are ever likely to see. Nalbandian firstly took to the microphone to apologise for his actions in the heat of the moment, but also went on to criticise the ATP for their decision to disqualify him and for the “pressure” which the tour placed on players. A subdued Marin Cilic then addressed the crowd having solemnly collected the trophy, claiming that “It was very bitter. It’s definitely not the way I wanted to win.” Finally, tournament director Chris Kermode dodged the boos of the crowd to attempt to explain the decision by saying that “there’s not a lot we can do about it. We are under the governance of ATP rules.”
With that the Aegon Championships 2012 was over, but the ramifications for Nalbandian were not; the Argentine was given the maximum fine of 10,000 euros on top of having to forfeit the entirety of his prize money for the championships. Furthermore, he was quizzed by the police after McDougall made a complaint of assault against him. This certainly left a bad taste in the mouth for anyone watching the final but apparently did not dim Nalbandian’s love of the Queen’s Club event, with him stating straight after the final that he would look to return in 2013.
For one reason or another however the 2013 edition at Queens Club doesnot in fact include Nalbandian, but a strong field including defending champion Cilic are fighting it out and will surely be hoping that everyone can focus solely on the quality of the tenn