John McEnroe Loses Temper at Kastles Match (UPDATED)
The thing is, whenever the Washington Kastles face the New York Sportimes, you know tensions will flare. I mean, they're the best two teams in World Team Tennis's Eastern Conference, and they just flat out don't like each other. Plus John McEnroe was playing for the Sportimes last night, and he's, how do you say, excitable?
So I wasn't there, but here's a rough summary of how things went down, according to the Kastles. During the men's doubles, Kastles star Leander Paes tagged Robert Kendrick with a volley at the net. A furious, or at least animated, McEnroe crossed the net and got in Paes's face (although there's some dispute about this--the Sportimes owner said McEnroe was "an oasis of calm in the chaos"), while New York Coach Chuck Adams started yelling at Paes's partner, Scott Oudsema. Kastles Coach Murphy Jensen also came out and started yelling. Fans got into it, too.
Everyone calmed down, and no penalties were issued, but Kendrick then served a ball into Paes, who was at the net and wasn't receiving the serve.
"All hell breaks loose again," someone with the Kastles told me.
So players on both benches got up and start yelling at each other and at the chair umpire;
the Kastles allege that a member of the Sportimes cursed at Olga Puchkova, and her teammate Rennae Stubbs then lost it and was assessed a one-point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Kastles went on to lose the match in a super tiebreaker.
UPDATED: I talked to Stubbs this afternoon, and she said that she remained calm and subdued throughout. She said she stood up and began a discussion after the Sportimes coach had cursed at Puchkova, at which point she was issued a warning. Then she went to the chair umpire and tried to explain what had been said, was told to sit down, and was assessed the point penalty for, essentially, not sitting down. She said another official later came to her and said that had been the most unjust point penalty he had ever seen.
UPDATED: "Basically, it was a great match, probably one of the greatest World Team Tennis match ever played, maybe the greatest," Sportimes owner Claude Okin told me. "All in all, I thought it was a great night. But the incident? Paes went at Kendrick, intentionally hit him with the ball pretty much as hard as he could, and that's scary. You can hurt somebody that way. Our coach and players defended their teammate verbally, and then Kendrick went back at Leander with his response, and it's what it is, but it started with Leander going at Robert. We have no idea why he did. Leander said he was gonna do that, he said 'Somebody's gonna get hurt out there,' and then he hit him.
"So we went a little crazy, because we just don't see that as being a necessary part of the game. But otherwise, by the end of the match, John spoke to Leander, Robert and Leander shook hands at the net, embraced each other, and everybody involved in both teams, from coaches to players to owners, had hugs and handshakes....Really what you saw was the intensity of the rivalry, and that's what makes World Team Tennis great. Basically I was proud to be part of it."
UPDATED: I talked to Kastles owner Mark Ein and he agreed that it was a great match, but he had concerns with how it ended.
"It definitely was a great match," he said. "We see eye to eye that it was one of the best matches you could ever have, so we agree on that. I think it's extremely unfortunate and was grossly unfair that we got a point penalty when our player was tagged with a serve, which in the more than 60 combined years that our team has played professional tennis, no one's ever seen that, ever. One of the cardinal rules of tennis you learn when you're a little kid is you never cross the net. In every other match that's an automatic default. For that to happen, and then for us to get a point penalty, which changed the momentum dramatically to start a tiebreaker, that was really unfair and really unfortunate and was a huge mistake by the umpire and everybody else who was part of that decision. It definitely was a great tennis match, and it was a great experience for the fans, but it was unfortunate that the outcome may have been impacted by really bad decision-making."
The Kastles have said that they will protest the result, and owner Mark Ein has asked the WTT for a full investigation. Okin said he expects the result will stand.
UPDATED: The WTT announced that it has fined and suspended Sportimes Coach Chuck Adams, according to the AP. Further punishments are still possible. The WTT is saying that the point penalty was for abuse of officials, a charge that Stubbs vehemently denies.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you can't ever skip a meeting between the Kastles and the Sportimes. You just don't know what will happen.
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