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Beyond the Baseline

Tempers flare between players and umpire at Indian Wells

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Fabio Fognini wasn't the only one to have issues with chair umpire Mohamed El Jennati's calls this weekend. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- It's been a tough 72 hours for Mohamed El Jennati. The veteran chair umpire has been at the center of two controversial judgment calls at the BNP Paribas Open that left players steaming.

El Jennati was in the chair for Radek Stepanek's first-round win over Denis Istomin, who grew upset after El Jennati disallowed a Hawk-Eye challenge on break point for a ball that looked well wide. Istomin clearly stopped play and lifted his arm to challenge the call, but El Jennati didn't see it. When Istomin repeated his request for the challenge, El Jennati told him he took too long. The supervisor was called to the court and sided with El Jennati. Istomin was, understandably, incredulous.

Watch the entire exchange below:

http://youtu.be/nozroBGhO0s

How Istomin lost that point is beyond me (and him, obviously). Not only was the specific shot Istomin wanted to challenge seemingly out, but so was Stepanek's next shot, which ended the rally because Istomin had stopped play. Yet somehow, the point was awarded to Stepanek.



There was some justice, though, as Istomin would break serve anyway and take the second set to even the match. But he eventually lost 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Saturday proved no better for El Jennati, who drew Fabio Fognini's ire during the second set of the Italian's second-round match against Ryan Harrison. Fognini hit a deep volley that was called out and that Harrison barely got a racket on. Fognini called for a challenge and was proved right, as the ball landed on the line. But instead of giving Fognini the point, El Jennati called for the point to be replayed, ruling that Harrison had a play on the ball. The flammable Fognini went ballistic.

"It's my point," Fognini said. "How you say no? You make the same s*** with Istomin yesterday? You were in the chair. Call the supervisor. ...  F*** are you doing? F*** are you doing?"

Fognini's expletive-laden rant continued when the supervisor, former gold badge umpire Lars Graff, arrived, and Harrison even got involved. Clearly annoyed that the whole incident was delaying his service game, Harrison exchanged words with Fognini at the net, telling him he had a play on the ball.

Watch the whole NSFW circus show, as led by the the ultimate ringmaster Fognini, below:

http://youtu.be/PHcdmzfn_Lg

The tirade seemed to turn things around for the 16th-ranked Fognini, who got a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct after all the dust settled. He went on to win the set 6-1 and the match 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Fognini didn't want to talk about the flare-up after the match. Harrison admitted that he didn't handle the situation well.

"I believe that if you were to watch the replay, it was the right call because I was in a position I could play on it," Harrison said. "Once I heard the call, I kind of let off my swing, which is why the ball didn't go in. But I was in position to make the shot. He exploded. There are a number of things that happened there. As difficult as it is to sit there when it's happening and just tell yourself to stick with it and keep going, it's tough, because that can be used as a reset button for him to just kind of like get everything out of his system, obviously get broken a couple times in a row. I didn't handle it as well as he did."

To cap El Jennati's uncomfortable 72 hours, he was in the chair for Sunday's second-round doubles match between Flavia Pennetta/Kristina Mladenovic and Kimiko Date-Krumm/Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. That match featured multiple stoppages of play for freak incidents, including Pennetta's hitting Date-Krumm in the eye with a volley, Strycova's taking one to the face and Mladenovic's getting stung by a bee. Date-Krumm and Zahlavova Strycova won 6-7 (5), 6-2, 10-5.

For everyone's sake, let's hope things turn around for El Jennati in Week 2 of the tournament.

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