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Wimbledon removes mistaken umpire

By Associated Press
Published June 26, 2004

WIMBLEDON, England - The chair umpire who awarded an extra point to Venus Williams' opponent in her second-round loss at Wimbledon won't work another match during the tournament.

"I have now discussed the incident with the chair umpire concerned, and we have agreed it will be in the best interests of both parties if he takes no further part in the event," tournament referee Alan Mills said Friday.

The umpires' office wouldn't comment.

Ted Watts of Britain mistakenly gave Karolina Sprem a point she didn't earn in the second tiebreaker of Thursday night's 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6) upset of Williams, the 2000-01 Wimbledon champion.

The error made it 2-2 in the tiebreaker. Williams built a 6-3 edge but lost the next five points for her earliest loss at the All England Club since her 1997 debut.

"I'd like to think he didn't do it on purpose," Williams said. "I don't think one call makes a match."

She led the tiebreaker 2-1 when Sprem hit a first serve ruled wide by the line judge, who put her arm out and shouted, "Fault!" Williams casually hit the ball over the net, and Sprem smacked a backhand into the open court. Williams stood still at the baseline, figuring it was time for a second serve.

But Watts announced the score as 2-2, a mistake that occurs every so often but generally is noticed right away by one of the players or another on-court official.

With the players apparently unaware Sprem received a point she shouldn't have, they lined up again in the same positions for what both thought was a second serve. Sprem put a safe offering in, and Williams laced a backhand winner. That should have made it 3-1 for Williams, but Watts called it 3-2.

"Unfortunately, the way it happened, Venus didn't query it at the time," Mills said. "They played point after point afterward, and the result, I'm afraid, stands as is."

Other top players thought Williams or Sprem should have questioned the call.

Serena Williams, who said she didn't watch her sister's match, questioned why Sprem didn't acknowledge the error at the time.

"As a competitor and as a professional, you should be able to distinguish between right and wrong," said the two-time defending champion. "I've never been in a situation like that before. I'm an honest individual. If I were in that situation, I know I'd make the right choice."

Andy Roddick, seeded No. 2 in the men's draw, said both players and all the officials were partly responsible.

"Something like that shouldn't happen at a tournament of this magnitude," he said.

"Personally, I'd have trouble just taking a point from someone," he added. "I've heard that no one noticed and stuff, but if it's the biggest match of your life, I'm figuring you know what the score is. ... I'd have a real issue just pretending like nothing was wrong and just taking the point."

Of Williams, he said: "I'm sure we've all forgotten the score from time to time, but I don't know in a tiebreaker on Centre Court at Wimbledon if I was threatening to be on my way out, if I'd forget it."

Sprem said she was confused but was focused on the match. Venus Williams said she couldn't be sure what the score was, so she didn't question the call.

Former French and Australian Open champion Jennifer Capriati said even if she couldn't keep track of the score, her entourage would never let the blunder pass.

"I know nobody in my box would have let that happen," Capriati said. "They would have been like, "Wrong Score!' "

Venus' father and coach, Richard Williams, told the British newspaper The Times that Watts shouldn't be judged too harshly.

"The umpire should not have any sleepless nights," he said.

[Last modified June 26, 2004, 01:23:35]


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