During the Monte-Carlo Masters Round 1 battle between Benoit Paire and Ivan Dodig, umpire Carlos Bernardes was called down from his chair many, many times to check the ball marks on the lines. Most of these requests for line calls were made by the Frenchman, who consistently felt that Carlos’ interpretation of those little dents in the red clay were absolutely wrong.
They stood and stared, they pointed, they traced marks, and Carlos got into lengthy explanations of how the clay being cleared from the side of the line meant the ball had clipped the line and was therefore in. Benoit seemed to feel that if there was a giant ball-sized mark next to the line it meant surely it was out. Carlos was unmoved. We were all entertained.
Then, when Dodig was ready to hold at 3-5, 40-love in the 2nd set, Benoit felt absolutely certain Dodig’s winning shot was out.
Surely this one had to go his way, Benoit thought. “I see you…” Carlos smiled, walking up to the perplexed player staring at the cluster of marks on the line. “Okay…it’s tough on you,” Carlos commiserated, moving around Benoit to assess the divot. Very tough, it turned out, as Carlos once again pointed out the mark and explained why it was in. Benoit let us know what he thought about that call.
Thud. Benoit’s racquet hit the dirt. “There is no space,” Carlos protested with a chuckle. “I can not do anything.” Dodig held to 4-5. Benoit continued discussing the call with Carlos all the way back to their respective chairs. There was a lot of talk about whether there was a space or not and whether that meant anything. Both men were like comedy sketch actors trying not to break character and burst out laughing.
After a minute or so, he shrugged and sighed heavily, and moved on. He started the next game with an ace–which, hilariously, Dodig challenged. C’est la victoire!! A call finally went Benoit’s way and then he held for the match, a 6-4, 6-4 first round win.
Props to the Frenchman and to Carlos, who kept things so genial that we were able to be totally amused by The Physics and Philosophy of Line Calls on Clay. Here’s hoping we’ll get a repeat performance sometime this week in Monte-Carlo.
PHOTOS: Monte-Carlo Masters 2013, First Round, Benoit Paire vs. Ivan Dodig, with Carlos Bernardes officiating. Screencaps, TennisTV.com, fair use.