Things got heated during Tennys Sandgren's fourth-round win over No. 12 Fabio Fognini at the Australian Open on Sunday, when the Italian player took a bathroom break after losing the first set.
It rubbed Sandgren the wrong way. It got more frustrating for the American when Fognini, after being docked a point for wasting time after dropping his opening service game in the second set, called immediately for a medical time out to treat blisters on his fingers.
While his opponent was otherwise occupied in the locker room, Sandgren asked chair umpire Damien Dumusois to explain why Fognini was allowed to take a break after the usual time between sets had lapsed.
“There are still rules. He doesn’t just get new rules because he’s Fabio, or does he?” Sandgren asked. Dumusois said he'd consulted with Grand Slam supervisor Gerry Armstrong, who'd given it the OK.
“Just because Gerry says it’s OK, doesn’t mean it’s within the rules of tennis. It means subjectively, Gerry says ‘sure, you can go to the bathroom now,' to make sure he doesn’t break all his rackets and walk off the court.”
Armstrong was called onto court soon after, to adjudicate on the medical time out. After waiting through two extended breaks, Sandgren went on a roll and took a 4-0 lead. Then Fognini, now fired up himself, won five straight games before Sandgren regained his composure.
The pair traded glares and verbal barbs, but in the end they hugged, with Fognini running around to Sandgren's side of the net to congratulate him on the 7-6 (5), 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-4 win.
The 100th-ranked Sandgren is into the quarterfinals for the second time in three years in Australia and next faces Roger Federer, who has won six titles at Melbourne Park among his 20 majors. He'll have to put the testy match against Fognini behind him quickly.
“It just seemed like we were dragging on for no real reason. I would have liked to have seen the ref be a little more forceful for what the times actually were," Sandgren explained later. “I was just trying to keep my composure and stay focused. Yeah, sometimes I can mouth off a little bit as far as speaking my mind as a way to vent. I was getting a little frustrated as to why we weren't playing yet. I used that time to vent.”
Fognini later said he no regrets about the fourth-round loss. He was fined $2,500 in a heated opener against American Reilly Opelka, when he came back from two sets down to win in five and acknowledged later he spoke improperly to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes.
Ons Jabeur is the first Arab woman to make it to a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, and she's proud to lead the way.
“I'm trying to inspire many young generations back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing," she said. “I've been practicing in Tunisia from the age of three." She added, smiling: "I'm a 100 percent Tunisian product."
The 78th-ranked Jabeur beat 27th-ranked Wang Qiang, who upset 23-time major winner Serena Williams in the previous round, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Sunday. The 25-year-old Jabeur will play American Sofia Kenin on Tuesday in the final eight. Jabeur said she had plenty of scholarship offers to go to college in the U.S., but "I wanted to really go pro directly."
She attended tennis academies in Belgium and France but she decided that returning to Tunisia was a "good option."
A French Open junior champion in 2011, Jabeur expected quick success on the elite tour.
"It was a little bit frustrating just after the juniors because I was expecting to go better," she said. "So many players I played with in juniors, I see them, they're like top 50, top 20."
She's on her way up the rankings now, after making the last eight in the season's first major. She's attracting attention with each match in Australia, and keeping her family awake.
“I called my mom right away, she was really, really happy," Jabeur said of her win over Wang. "My father as well, I think he was crying. Also my two brothers, the one in Germany and the one in France. The family, everyone was behind me. They couldn't go back to sleep again.
“I'm happy that I have this support because we've been through rough times — now it's finally paying off.”
DJOKOVIC'S FAMILY FAVORITE?
Novak Djokovic is one of Serbia's favorite sons. But is he his son's favorite player? Apparently, it's still up for debate.
Djokovic has has won 16 major titles, including a record seven in Australia, and is into the quarterfinals of a major for the 46th time — second only to Roger Federer. He recently pulled tens of thousands of Serbian fans to stadiums in Brisbane and Sydney as he helped his country win the inaugural ATP Cup team tournament.
His five-year-old Stefan has started playing tennis — he also likes martial arts and football — and father and son practice together sometimes. Asked about Stefan's tennis development, Djokovic said: “He likes to play with me, and with his best friend. He doesn't like to play with too many other people.”
Asked who Stefan's favorite is, not even the 32-year-old Djokovic was sure.
“He still hasn't expressed who his favorite player is. I hope I'll be working on becoming his favorite player."