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Beyond the Baseline

Tempers flare during early rounds of the Sony Open

France's Michael Llodra couldn't contain his frustrations in Key Biscayne, Fla. (Al Bello/Getty) France's Michael Llodra couldn't contain his frustrations in Key Biscayne, Fla. (Al Bello/Getty)

Whether it's the heat, the humidity, or the general fatigue the players must be feeling in the last significant hard court tournament of the spring season, everyone has been on a short fuse at the Sony Open. The early rounds have seen tempers fly. Player vs. Countryman. Player vs. Fans. Player vs. Umpire. Player vs. Supervisor. No one was safe in Miami.

Here's a roundup of just a handful of incidents during the first three rounds of play:

Michael Llodra called Benoit Paire "a little s**t": It should have been a routine first round match between the two Frenchmen, but as the match unfolded on Court 1 the two reportedly had to be physically separated by the umpire early in the first set when Paire felt Llodra fired a verbal volley at him after Paire raced out to a 3-0 lead. According to Paire's coach Lionel Zimbler, it all started in the first game when Paire made some gesture of annoyance at an umpire's call. Llodra felt Paire was trying to intimidate the umpire and told him during the changeover not to "act like a little s**t."

Zimbler says Paire was taken off-guard by Llodra's comments and asked the umpire to intervene. The umpire did not. Paire took offense. And any goodwill between the two countrymen went out the window. Paire began yelling his own obscenities after points, while Llodra claims he didn't say anything else to Paire to incite him. The umpire had to issue each man a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct during the first set, which Llodra came back to win in a tiebreaker. Paire never recovered.

After Llodra won the match 7-6, 6-2, there was no handshake. The crowd booed. Benoit didn't care. "Benoit gets serenaded with boos as he walks off the court and responds by enthusiastically waving to the crowd," blogger Ricky Dimon tweeted.

"I won't ever talk to him again," Paire reportedly said. "He tried everything to upset me while I was dominating the game. He insulted me."

Jerzy Janowicz was rattled by the pro-Brazilian crowd: They don't call it the "South American Slam" for nothing. Fans and bloggers on site lit up Twitter on Saturday when the pro-Brazillian crowd seemed to take over the second round match between Poland's Jerzy Janowicz and Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci. Janowicz -- yes he of the epic "HOW MANY TIMES" meltdown at the Australian Open -- couldn't deal with the rowdy crowd that seemed to insist on inserting themselves into the match to back their man.

It worked, as Bellucci went on to upset the 21st seed 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. Amy Fetherolf, a tennis blogger writing for Tennis Panorama, was on-hand and had a prime seat for all the action.

As Janowicz served to force a first set tiebreak, the crowd began to boo and whistle. He threw his arms up in the air, encouraging the crowd to boo louder. They were happy to oblige. They booed him enthusiastically again when he paused to tie his shoes between points. His pleas to Nouni to calm the crowd went unanswered.

...

Janowicz continued to fire up the crowd, giving them a thumbs down during one of the changeovers as they booed him, and laughing at the reaction he got.

The third set was one-way traffic for Bellucci, even though he paused to receive treatment from the trainer for a gluteal injury. He held from 15-40 down, and Janowicz spit on the court in frustration.

Meanwhile, the crowd’s rancor was growing exponentially. A man sitting directly behind Janowicz’s coach began yelling and chanting, “Go home, Polska.” Nouni did not intervene, perhaps having given up on controlling the crowd. Janowicz laughed through the last changeover.

Bellucci served out the match successfully, much to the crowd’s delight. Janowicz bolted for the exit immediately, chased by a trail of boos, whistles, and jeers.

“He’s already lost. Let him be,” Janowicz’s coach said to the man behind him who was chanting for Janowicz to go home.

Here's video of the 12th game of the first set when things started getting out of control, and the first set tiebreak.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwo6Hzj9L1w

You can catch a full "Tweetcap" of the crazy match over at The Changeover.

Jurgen Melzer got a bogus time violation: The new ATP time violation rule is officially out of control. During the third round clash between Jurgen Melzer and Tobias Kamke, the chair umpire issued a time violation to Melzer after the Austrian's serve was delayed because Kamke was busy wiping a bug off the court. That's right. Melzer, who was standing at the service line ready to serve was issued a time violation because he politely waited for his opponent to attend to a bug.

Everyone was puzzled, including former pro Ivan Ljubicic:

https://twitter.com/theljubicic/status/315964988143587328

Here's video of the incident:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDH9lNro3Uo

But what incensed Melzer the most was the tournament supervisor's complete unwillingness to step in and intercede. The supervisor can't overturn an umpire's ruling of "fact" but he can intervene to help clarify a rule and ensure it's applied properly to the umpire's interpretation of the facts. In this case he seemed pretty comfortable deferring to the umpire.

https://twitter.com/theljubicic/status/315965788039286785

https://twitter.com/jojomelzer/status/316010817617281024

It all turned out alright for Melzer in the end. He came back to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round.

Svetlana Kuznetsova's very audible non-obscenity: When is an audible obscenity not an audible obscenity? That was the question during Svetlana Kuznetsova's third round loss to Ana Ivanovic on Sunday night.  She was issued an audible obscenity warning in the second set after yelling something after missing a shot. Kuznetsova claims she said "pista", which means "court" in Spanish. The Croatian umpire says she heard her say something else .

"You said something that is very bad in my language," Mirjana Cicak says, possibly referring "pička" or "pizda", which are bad words in the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language. Kuznetsova was incredulous and refused to shake the umpire's hand after the match.

Take a look at the video. What do you think Kuznetsova said?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEZ6F3cId9E

I'm a big fan of umpires cracking down on players swearing in foreign languages. It's a bit unfair John Isner, Serena Williams or Andy Murray have to watch their language while the Spaniards, Serbs and Croats get away with far worse in their native tongues. But did Cicak really think Kuznetsova was cussing in Croatian? Does Sveta even speak Croatian? Are all players now charged with knowing all the major curse words in all languages in order to avoid accidental code violations?

Hopefully the emotions will settle down as the tournament enters its second week.
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