Australian Open: Medvedev’s rant at umpire, and the ‘sting operation’ that caught Tsitsipas for illegal coaching

During his 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win in the Australian Open semifinal over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev went on a belligerent rant. The Russian lost his temper late in the second set, berating the chair umpire and accusing his opponent of being coached illegally by his father-coach Apostolos from the sidelines. The meltdown seemingly prompted a ‘sting operation’ to catch Tsitsipas.

Medvedev’s meltdown

Deep in the second set — after serving a pair of double faults that handed Tsitsipas a crucial break — Medvedev received a code violation for an audible obscenity. The Russian then launched into a tirade.

“Bro, are you mad? Bro, are you mad? For what? His father can coach every point? Are you stupid?” Medvedev launched at chair umpire Jaume Campistol. “His father can talk every point! His father can talk every point! His father can talk every point! His father can talk every point! Will you answer my question? Can you answer my question? Can you answer my question, please? Can his father talk every point? Oh my God, you are so bad, man. How can you be so bad in a semi-final of a Grand Slam? Look at me! I’m talking to you!”

Tsitsipas capitalised on the break to serve out the set, and Medvedev continued to berate the umpire, asking for Tsitsipas to get a code violation for on-court coaching,

“Next time it should be a code violation. If you don’t do it, you are – how can I say it – a small cat,” seemingly alluding to the term “pussy”.

‘Sting operation’

Almost an hour later, Tsitsipas was caught receiving on-court coaching. Medvedev’s outburst had prompted an official — Greek umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore — to position herself in the tunnel below the Tsitsipas box to potentially catch the father-son duo in the act. Channel Nine’s cameras picked up Asderaki-Moore signalling for a code violation, drawing a laugh from Tsitsipas.

In the commentary booth, Sam Groth and Jim Courier termed it a “sting operation”.

“We can spot her. I think we have a freeze-frame. We can see where she is. She’s in the tunnel, just right there in the tunnel. You can see the tan pants, the blue stop and the white mask,” Groth called the action. “That is Eva Asderaki-Moore, the chair umpire. She’s just below, but out of vision. So basically, it’s a sting operation. They’re not trying to intimidate and stop it. They’re trying to catch it. Pretty crafty, huh?”

After the warning, Courier added: “He just discovered the sting operation, and he’s smiling about it! He’s entertained by it, look at him!”

Co-commentator Todd Woodbridge questioned Tsitsipas senior’s actions, wondering what purpose they served.

“Seriously, what’s Dad going to tell him, after he’s just held serve to love and he’s in a position to return?” he bemoaned.

Medvedev won five straight games afterwards to seal the match.

Tsitsipas’ coaching episodes

Tsitsipas had already been given code violations for coaching in his third-round and fourth-round matches against Benoit Paire and Taylor Fritz respectively.

During the Fritz match, chair umpire Damien Dumusois warned Tsitsipas, after which the 23-year-old was seen motioning to his father to calm him down.

“It’s a great match, but if he keeps talking to you, I have to keep giving you a code [violation],” Dumusois said to Tsitsipas.

In the post-match press conference on Friday, Tsitsipas said that he feels he is unfairly targeted by officials.

“I’m used to it. They’ve been targeting me already a long time. I feel like I’ve gotten a few in the past, and the umpires are always paying attention to my box, never paying attention to the opponent’s box. I feel I have been a victim of that for a long time now.”

He added that he had spent “countless hours trying to figure it out with” his father.

“My father, he’s a person that when he gets into something when there is a lot of action, his medicine is to talk, and you can’t stop it. It’s something that he does from nature,” the 2021 French Open finalist said. “That was also one of the reasons last year I went out publicly on one of my social media platforms and said that I think coaching should be allowed, simply because coaches do it anyway. Most of them get away with it, and they do it pretty smartly, I can tell you.”

Coaching rules

“Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis,” Tsitsipas had tweeted last July. “The sport needs to embrace it,” he wrote. “We’re probably one of the only global sports that doesn’t use coaching during the play. Make it legal. It’s about time the sport takes a big step forward.”

While on-court coaching is an offence on the ATP Tour, the WTA Tour has allowed on-court coaching since 2008. According to WTA rules, a player can request her coach for advice once each set. Furthermore, the WTA has been running a trial since February 2020 for coaches to communicate from the stands without disrupting play.

However, on-court coaching is forbidden at Grand Slams for both men and women. On the men’s side, the only exception for on-court coaching is team events such as Davis Cup and Laver Cup where team captains are on court with the players.

Bad blood

The Medvedev-Tsitsipas rivalry was born at the Miami Open in 2018, when the former won the clash of the relative unknowns. Medvedev was furious at Tsitsipas over a lengthy toilet break and the Greek not apologising for winning a point after the ball hit the net cord.

“Man, you better shut your f*** up, okay?” Medvedev had lashed out at Tsitsipas after the match. “Hey Stefanos, you want to look at me and talk? You go emergency toilet for five minutes during [the third set} and then you hit let, and you don’t say sorry. You think you are a good kid?”

“He said ‘Bullshit Russian’. You think that is normal?” Medvedev asked the intervening umpire.

On Friday, Medvedev admitted the latest outburst was a “big mistake”.

“To be honest, I don’t think that emotions helped me too much,” the Russian said on court. “You lose concentration and too much energy. As soon as I did it, I (thought), ‘That is a big mistake’. I am happy I (regained) concentration at the beginning of the third set.”

Tsitsipas dismissed the antics: “Could be maybe a tactic. It’s all right. He’s not the most mature person anyways.”

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