Serena Williams' least favorite rule made another appearance in a Grand Slam late Friday night at the Australian Open.
It took place in the opening game of the fifth set between Bernard Tomic and Alexander Dolgopolov. The young Aussie was serving for the game when Dolgopolov hit a scoop forehand that sailed toward the baseline. Tomic returned the shot, then got out of his defensive crouch, raised his racquet, looked at the chair umpire and relaxed his body, clearly signaling for a challenge. His call went unheeded and Dolgopolov, distracted by the gesture, hit a loopy forehand that went wide.
Dolgopolov immediately argued that Tomic called for a challenge and, if he didn't, the gesture should have been ruled a hindrance. The chair disagreed and the Russian went on to lose the final set, 6-2.
[Profanity warning (rhymes with "gritty") at the 0:44 mark of the video.]
"I looked at the ref, but I didn't say a thing, I continued to play," Tomic said after the match. "In my mind, I didn't challenge."
Is Tomic heeding the old Seinfeld mantra that "it's not a lie if you believe it?" His intentions couldn't have been more clear. If the raising of the racquet wasn't enough, the fact that Tomic stood up and started walking away from the point left little room for interpretation.
His actions were more of a hindrance than Serena's "come on!" was at the US Open. In that circumstance, Sam Stosur wasn't getting to Serena's winner regardless of what she did. Tomic essentially halted the point by raising his racquet. For the chair to miss such an easy call was another appalling error in a tournament that's been filled with them.
Tomic doesn't get a free pass in this, he made the motion and then hid behind a favorable ruling. His lack of sportsmanship is understandable though. Tomic is a 19-year-old playing in front of a partisan crowd in a nation in that's turned him into the next great hope. He's a kid who made a bad decision in a tense moment. The chair umpire has no such excuse.