Tennis's weird rule prompts ten-minute shouting match between Jeremy Chardy and umpire

Jeremy Chardy of France speaks to chair umpire Miriam Bley - Quinn Rooney/Getty
Jeremy Chardy of France speaks to chair umpire Miriam Bley - Quinn Rooney/Getty

Dan Evans, the British No 2, has a knack for attracting controversy – although he did his best to stay neutral on Thursday when a lengthy argument erupted during his straight-sets victory over Jeremy Chardy.

While Evans sat quietly like a choirboy during the sermon, his French opponent raged at chair umpire Miriam Bley and then supervisor Asita Attigala for a good ten minutes before finally being persuaded to resume play.

The issue related to one of tennis’s weirder rules – which states that if something falls on the court during a rally, the point should be replayed. In this case, a ball fell out of Chardy’s pocket as he faced break point in the first set, but Bley didn’t spot it until after Chardy had netted a forehand.

Chardy argued – unsuccessfully – that he should be granted another chance, and vented his fury at Bley. “It’s a f---ing joke,” he said, “I never see this in my life, I have been playing for 20 years [and] I never see an umpire bad like you. Where are you looking, are you looking at the birds? It’s the biggest mistake of the Australian Open. Not one umpire on the tour would do this mistake, not one."

Afterwards, 35-year-old Chardy explained that this point had been especially vital because he is returning to the singles court after an absence of 18 months, which included a lengthy spell of fatigue in the aftermath of receiving the Covid vaccine.

“I know for me the first set was really important,” said Chardy, who lives in England and often practises at the National Tennis Centre in south west London. “I mean, I was already tired so if I don't win the first or second set, I know my chances will be really low.”

Asked whether he thought Bley should be accountable for her error, he added “It’s what I said to her. If I miss a point, then break my racket, I will get fined. You can do a huge mistake, and nothing will happen to you.”

Dan Evans celebrates with a clenched fist - GETTY
Dan Evans celebrates with a clenched fist - GETTY

After completing his 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 victory in 1hr 58min, Evans explained why he had been so careful to stay out of the debate. “I know Jeremy relatively well,” he said, “so I didn't really want it to sour the match. If it was someone I didn't know so well, I'd be hoping he was getting fired up and a bit angry with the situation.”

Evans also suggested that, in this instance, the law is an ass. “If you serve, for instance, and the ball comes out of your pocket, why is it a let? I think it's the worst rule ever. If a ball comes out your pocket, it's your own fault.”

His opponent in round three will be fifth seed Andrey Rublev, a huge hitter of the ball but someone whose route-one approach has sometimes come unstuck against Evans’s touch and guile. “My plan will be to frustrate him with my game,” said Evans, “and I have done that pretty well the last few times.”