Tomas Berdych refused to shake the hand of Nicolas Almagro following his fourth-round victory over the Spaniard at the Australian Open. The seventh-seeded Berdych was still upset about a point from a few minutes before in which Almagro hit a legal forehand directly at his body.
We'll start with a look at that point, from late in the match. Berdych was up two sets to one and serving at 5-5, 40-0.
Almagro's shot didn't look dirty. He was off balance, running to hit the forehand and had only a split second to decide where to place it. Almagro couldn't have gone to the right of Berdych; there was no angle. He couldn't have gone to the left; his path to the ball wouldn't have allowed it. There was only one play. Almagro made it. It's a part of tennis.
Any concern about Almagro's guilt would have been assuaged by his immediate reaction and apology. Berdych had every reason to be heated in that initial moment. With the apology and the fact that he ended up winning 10 minutes later, you'd have thought he'd have cooled down.
He didn't. When they went to meet at the net for a handshake, Berdych brushed past him without so much as a look. It was a bush league move. His comments afterward didn't endear any to his cause.
"I think when you have a point and somebody wants to hit you straight to your face, I don't see this as a nice moment," he said through the boos of fans to the on-court interviewer after the match. "Especially when you have a whole court free and you're just standing in the middle of it and he hits you in the face. Yeah, [the booing] is their opinion."
In his press conference, Berdych backed off a little.
"What happened from Nico was not what should be happening in tennis," he said. "Maybe we both made a mistake, so it's even and that's it."
Yeah, saying that maybe you made a mistake isn't technically an apology. Nor does the non-apology stay valid when you continue badmouthing your opponent throughout the press conference.
"Whoever has played tennis knows the court is pretty big and you always have space to put the ball in," he said. "And even if you stand just three or four meters from a guy [you don't have to] try to hit it straight at the face."
Almagro defended his shot and says the boos for Berdych and the applause for him are an indication about what the fans thought about it.
"The support of the public showed what happened," he said. "They were aware of what happened on the court."
Indeed. Tomas Berdych is a sore winner. He won't be for long. Up next for the Czech in the quarterfinals? Rafael Nadal.
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