I love tennis. The mano-a-mano or womano-a-womano back and forth of a match enthralls me. One of my favourite books is The Inner Game of Tennis. Its author, Timothy Gallwey, waxes poetic about the beauty of two evenly matched players. Far beyond the winning and losing is the epic struggle, where the best in you brings out the best in me.
The French Open (also known as Roland Garros) is on TV for the next two weeks. This morning I watched Kristina Mladenovic from France and Laura Siegemund from Germany give it their all.
I don’t know what you know about tennis. Usually after a player serves, the ball bounces once before the opponent hits it back. Sometimes they hit it out of the air before a bounce. Two bounces and the point is over – you lose.
Near the end of the first set today, the score was 5 games to 1 for Mladenovic. You need to win six games to win a set, and the match is the best two out of three sets. Within a game, each serve results in a point being given. Mladenovic was within one point of winning the game, and therefore the set. She lofted a soft shot well in front of Siegemund, who raced forward. But not fast enough – two bounces.
The umpire didn’t notice the two bounces. The TV world did, especially after the video replay. The set should have been over in favour of Mladenovic. But it wasn’t. Siegemund won that set, and later the match.
In that moment of two bounces, what did Siegemund do?
What did Siegemund say?
I had visions of her rushing up to the umpire to complain: “It bounced twice. Mladenovic won the set.” Alas, no. And the TV commentators said zero about Siegemund’s silence.
I felt myself slump. A huge exhale of sadness. I still feel it.
I read a few match reports on the Internet afterwards. The official site of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) wrote fourteen paragraphs about the match. Not a word about two bounces. Most reports did mention the umpire’s mistake, and some criticized her. A sole Tweet gave the reader a whiff of “lack of sportsmanship” but didn’t mention Siegemund by name.
The world needs better than all this.