A mid-match bathroom break by Rafael Nadal left opponent, Mardy Fish, frustrated during their Sunday match at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Nadal was leading 2-0 in the third set when he asked to leave the court following a break of Fish's serve. The American appeared upset that chair umpire Mohamad Lahyani allowed the break in the middle of play rather than at the changeover after the third game. The umpire told Fish that he granted the break so as not to have Fish wait before his own serve. Television commentators repeatedly referred to Lahyani's ruling as "ridiculous."
When Nadal returned a few minutes later, he explained himself to an annoyed Fish. Rafa would go on to lose the next three games before recovering to win the match in a third-set tiebreaker.
Later, it was revealed Nadal had a stomach issue and spent the break vomiting in the locker room.
If true, then the bathroom break was warranted. The precedent of allowing a mid-match break is where it gets tricky, though. Over on our NFL blog, Shutdown Corner, we often write about the NFL's finicky rules that dictate what color shoes a player can wear and how a player celebrates in the end zone. It seems silly, for instance, that a player is flagged for saluting the troops on Veterans Day weekend. Then you see a situation like the Nadal bathroom break and realize why the NFL has to enforce everything, no matter the reason: If you allow the well-intentioned to flout the rules because they have a good excuse, it becomes impossible to regulate the athletes with bad intentions who will take advantage of a situation.
Nadal needed to use the restroom. What happens when a player locked in a tight match doesn't need to use it and asks for a break anyway? How is an umpire supposed to determine what's real or what's gamesmanship? They can't and that's why Nadal shouldn't have been allowed to leave the court.
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