In the thirteenth article of the series, the results on this website, displayed as statistics, answer the question:
WHAT IS A DEFAULT?
A default in tennis means one of two things. When a player pulls out before a match starts and hands a walkover to their opponent the winner is sometimes described as 'winning by default'. In the days before lucky losers from the qualifying competition replaced players who pulled out before playing their first match, there were many first round walkovers. If both players withdrew from a match, this was known as a double default or double walkover. This meant that the player due to play the double default in the next round was given a bye. However, default is also a term to describe a player being disqualified.
Incidents of players retiring from matches when they get injured are commonplace, but incidents of players being defaulted (disqualified) because of their behaviour are rare. In the pre-war era on court behaviour or court etiquette was of much greater importance than it is today. Even those players that had a rebellious streak, such as Bill Tilden, usually gave points to their opponents after their opponents had received a bad line call against them. Deliberately netting a return or serving a double fault immediately after winning a point because of a bad line call was the norm. After the war things began to change. Players would query umpires' decisions politely and accept that the umpire's decision was final. There was only the occasional incident when a player did not accept the umpire's decision. At the U. S. in 1951 Earl Cochell verbally assaulted on court officials and referee Ellsworth Davenport. Although he was not disqualified during the match, afterwards the U. S. T. A. took the unprecedented decision of banning him for life. Although the ban was later dropped, Cochell never played Grand Slam singles again. At the Australian in 1952, Dick Savitt faced Ken McGregor in the semi finals. Referee Frank Piper let McGregor wear spikes. Savitt did not have a pair of spikes and was furious at the decision. He refused to play on. Savitt held up play for 20 minutes before he was persuaded to continue.
Bill Alvarez was defaulted from the French in 1963 during his second round match against Martin Mulligan. In the lead up clay court tournaments of 1963, Alvarez had questioned a number of line calls, demanded the removal of linespeople and mistreated his racket. It wasn't long before Alvarez began holding up play by disputing line calls at the French. The management committee took the view that a firm line must be taken and, as Alvarez was involved in a dispute with umpire Fred Sherriff, tournament committeeman Robert Abdesselam walked onto court and told Alvarez he was defaulted. In 1963 Alvarez's default had been a shock, as other players of the time did not query line calls in the same way or with the same frequency that Alvarez did. The London Times described the Alvarez incident by saying "here was what is believed to be the first case of its kind, a player's disqualification because his conduct prevented play from being continuous".
The volatile Pancho Gonzales hated to lose like no player that had come before him. Gonzales had turned pro in 1949, which meant he was unable to play in the Grand Slams. When open tennis arrived in 1968 Gonzales was back competing in the Grand Slams again. He was forty and he had mellowed slightly. However, even a more mellow Gonzales was defaulted from the Bournemouth event in 1972 after a row with the referee. As Gonzales approached retirement, the likes of Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors emerged onto the scene. In the mid 1970s the game was changing rapidly. The days of deference had gone. Nastase was disqualified from Bournemouth, Washington and the Masters in 1975 (there were others in his career). The Masters default was prompted by Nastase's opponent Arthur Ashe. After Nastase had taken much longer than thirty seconds between points, Ashe left the court claiming a default. Would the referee have defaulted Nastase if Ashe hadn't left the court? Nastase went on to win his remaining round robin matches and won the tournament. A decade and a half after Alvarez's disqualification, there had still been no other men defaulted in Grand Slams. Nastase was a big drawing card in the big events, which (through television and sponsorship deals) had become big money making enterprises.
Then, in 1977, Mr. John McEnroe arrived on the tennis scene and the situation soon reached crisis point. McEnroe hurled abuse at umpires and linespeople at every opportunity. Umpires didn't know what had hit them and many were shown up as being incompetent and weak. Even if an umpire did assert their authority then they risked being overruled by the referee. Such an incident occured at the U. S. Open in 1979. McEnroe faced veteran Nastase in a second round encounter. At one stage, the umpire got so fed up with Nastase's timewasting that he defaulted him. However, the referee feared a riot and reversed the umpire's decision. At Wimbledon in 1981 McEnroe had a famous rant at the umpire during his opening round match against Tom Gullikson. The referee declined to default him. Tennis officials had become the laughing stock of world sport.
Things had to change and they did. During the 1980s full time umpires became the norm and a code of conduct was introduced. Penalties for violating the new code were: first a warning, then a point penalty, then a game penalty and finally disqualification. However, there were still problems with the way tennis was organised. At the French Open in 1988 McEnroe was involved in a memorable fourth round encounter with his arch rival Ivan Lendl. McEnroe was in a typically fiery mood and the referee was called to court. The crowd were going wild. It was getting dark and the officials weren't sure whether to suspend the match or not. The match rapidly descended into a farce. Things changed after that tournament. Umpires were obliged to check ball marks on clay. The code of conduct was reduced to three steps at the end of 1989 and referees were now part of a Grand Slam committee. A clear chain of command had been established.
At the Australian Open in 1990 McEnroe's temper got the better of him in a fourth round match against Mikael Pernfors. First he walked right up to a linesperson and bounced the ball on his racket while glaring at the linesperson in a very intimidating fashion. The umpire Gerry Armstrong gave him his first code of conduct violation for unsportsmanlike conduct, which meant a warning. Then he got a second violation for racket abuse, which meant a point penalty. McEnroe asked to speak to the referee. Peter Bellenger arrived along with supervisor Ken Farrar. McEnroe told Farrar that he believed it was only racket abuse if the racket was broken and he fully intended to play the next point with it. Farrar backed the umpire, which did not please McEnroe. Then, as Farrar was walking away from the umpire's chair, McEnroe uttered some expletives at him. Farrar then returned to the umpire's chair with Bellenger. After a short discussion between the officials, McEnroe was issued with a third code of conduct violation, which meant he was disqualified. Finally McEnroe had got his comeuppance. After the match, McEnroe claimed that part of the reason he'd been disqualified was because he thought they were playing under the old four-step code of conduct, rather than the new three-step one!
McEnroe played his last Grand Slam event at the U. S. Open in 1992. The days of frequent big umpire-player confrontations seemed to be over. Then, out of the blue, two of the most infamous events in tennis history occured within a matter of hours of each other at Wimbledon in 1995. The first incident occured late in the evening during a doubles match on an outside court. Young Tim Henman and veteran Jeremy Bates, the future and past British number ones, were playing together. Henman hit a ball (not during a rally) that unintentionally hit a ballgirl. The ballgirl was hurt. The umpire called referee Alan Mills to court and the situation was explained to him. Mills then defaulted Henman. Therefore not Gonzales, not Nastase, not Connors, not McEnroe, but Timothy Henman became the first man ever to be defaulted from Wimbledon. One of Henman's opponents was Jeff Tarango. Having been on the receiving end of a default in the doubles, Tarango was then defaulted in the singles.
On an outside court Jeff Tarango faced Alexander Mronz in a third round match. The crowds on outside courts at Wimbledon are often a lot more vocal than crowds on the centre and number one courts. After Tarango argued with the umpire Bruno Rebeuh about a call, the crowd began to boo Tarango. Tarango told the crowd to shut up and the umpire (somewhat controversially) issued him with a first code of conduct violation for an audible obscenity, which meant a warning. This infuriated Tarango and he thought the umpire's call was unjust. Tarango sat down in his seat and refused to play on until he had spoken to the supervisor. Rebeuh called the supervisor Stefan Fransson. Fransson backed the umpire. Then an angry Tarango finally returned to play the next point but as a last remark said to Rebeuh "you are the most corrupt official in the game and you can't do that". Then Rebeuh gave Tarango a second code of conduct violation for verbal abuse, which meant a point penalty. Then Tarango picked up his bags and stormed off court. Tarango (who was never seeded in singles at a Grand Slam event) was suddenly one of the most well known tennis players on the planet. However, interest in Tarango soon began to wane. Although he had disputes with umpires after that, he was not defaulted from a Grand Slam event again.
The latest incident of a Grand Slam default came at the French in 2000. Stefan Koubek was disqualified from his second round match with Atilla Savolt. Koubek had already received three warnings. He was first warned for receiving coaching. Then Koubek was warned for racket abuse. Then he was warned for verbal abuse. Finally, when on the verge of defeat, Koubek was disqualified for hitting a ballboy with his racket. It was not the only time Koubek was disqualified from a tournament, but it was the only time he was disqualified from a Grand Slam. It is now a well known fact that if a player hits an on court official with a racket or ball then they risk instant disqualification. Guillermo Coria came close to being disqualified at the French Open in 2003. He threw his racket and it only narrowly missed a ballboy, as the ballboy managed to move out of the way at the last second. Coria's relief was obvious and he immediately gave the ballboy his shirt and apologised.
GRAND SLAM MEN'S SINGLES MID-MATCH DEFAULTS (DISQUALIFICATIONS) (4)
Lists name of player and tournament, then person(s) that imposed penalties and what the penalties were.
Bill Alvarez French Open 1963. Official: Robert Abdesselam. Immediate disqualification. Defaulted by the official (a committeeman) after Alvarez had got into a dispute with the umpire Fred Sherriff.
John McEnroe Australian Open 1990. Umpire: Gerry Armstrong. Supervisor: Ken Farrar. Referee: Peter Bellenger. Code of conduct default. First violation (warning issued by Armstrong): unsportsmanlike conduct for intimidating a linesperson. Second violation (point penalty issued by Armstrong): racket abuse. Third violation (default issued by Armstrong after consultation with Farrar and Bellenger): verbal abuse of Farrar.
Jeff Tarango Wimbledon 1995. Umpire: Bruno Rebeuh. Code of conduct default. First violation (warning): audible obscenity for saying "shut up" to the crowd. Second violation (point penalty): verbal abuse of Rebeuh. Tarango then left the court. Third violation (default): non appearance.
Stefan Koubek French Open 2000. Umpire: Stefan Fransson. Immediate disqualification. Koubek was defaulted because he accidentally hit a ballboy with his racket.
Information on the McEnroe, Henman & Tarango defaults, the McEnroe-Lendl French Open match and the Coria French Open incident gathered from videotapes. Information on the Koubek default gathered from online sources. All other information gathered from newspapers and books.