The Foro Italico might have dodged the forecast storms, but we did see a violent tempest on the court. Frustrated by a botched line call, world No 5 Karolina Pliskova lost her temper so dramatically that she used her racket to beat a hole in the umpire’s chair.
After the match, which Pliskova lost by a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 scoreline to Greece’s Maria Sakkari, her twin sister Kristyna – who also ranks in the world’s top 100 – posted a public message on social media.
— Kristyna Pliskova (@KrisPliskova) May 16, 2018
Clay-court tournaments don’t use Hawk-Eye for disputed line-calls, leaving officials to point out marks left in the clay. Yet the potential flaw in the system was highlighted when Mrozinska, a Polish umpire, could not find a mark at a crucial stage.
The players were locked at 5-5 in the deciding set when Pliskova slammed away a winning smash, which was clearly shown by replays to have bounced a good few centimetres inside the line. But the line-judge ruled the ball out and then neither they nor Mrozinska could identify a mark when they were queried by Pliskova.
The decision brought up a break point for Sakkari, who promptly took it and served out for the win. After shaking hands at the net, Pliskova started to hold out her hand to Mrozinska, but then withdrew it and attacked the chair with her racket three times, leaving a finger-sized hole in the wood. She can expect a fine from the Women’s Tennis Association for her silent outburst.
As for the idea of an umpire “blacklist” raised by Kristyna Pliskova, we have seen this sort of thing before, notably when Rafael Nadal admitted in 2015 that he had asked for the respected chair umpire Carlos Bernardes to be kept away from his matches.
Supervisors do sometimes take previous bad blood into account when they allocate officials, but it is not a good look for the sport.
At around the same time that Pliskova was boiling over on the Pietrangeli Stadium, there was a sense of payback in the air on Court 3 as British No 1 Johanna Konta dismantled Su Wei-Hsieh – the woman who had wrecked her French Open 12 months ago – in just 65 minutes.
At last year’s Roland Garros, Hsieh – who hails from Chinese Taipei – belied a ranking of No 109 to deliver one of Konta’s most disappointing defeats. Today’s rematch promised to be another banana skin, particularly as conditions here in Rome are almost identical to those in Paris.
But any concerns proved misplaced, as Konta took advantage of her opponent’s sluggishness to grab a first-set bagel. Hsieh did look more threatening thereafter, especially when saving four match points in a tense final few minutes. But Konta closed her 6-0, 6-4 win with a punchy forehand volley.
Her reward is a crack at Jelena Ostapenko, the reigning French Open champion, in tomorrow’s third round.
Later, in a cross-Channel battle between the British and French No 1s, Kyle Edmund eliminated Lucas Pouille in dominant style. Edmund only faced a single break point in the course of his 6-2, 7-6 victory, which he saved. He finished off the win with a typically pulverising forehand winner.
Edmund’s fine run of clay-court form has accelerated his progress up the rankings ladder. If the positions were calculated today, he would stand at No 17 in the world, one place ahead of Tomas Berdych. This understated man stands in rarefied territory now, and he is more than living up to his billing, particularly in the bigger matches. His last six meetings with top-20 opponents have delivered five wins and just a single defeat, which came when he was handicapped by a sore hip in his Australian Open semi-final against Marin Cilic.
But tomorrow will throw up another significant challenge in the lanky shape of Alexander Zverev, the world No 3, who won last week’s tournament in Madrid.