Wimbledon: Mild-mannerred Nalbandian goes down without a fight
Bad boys aren't us. Maybe it is the civilising influence of the All England Club that called the dissenters to order. No casualties to report on Court No 1, no abuse, only a sense of anti-climax and the occasional baseline moan at a rum line-call.
David Nalbandian, who remains the subject of a police investigation for his assault on an advertising board-cum line-judge at Queen's, cut an eviscerated figure as he opened and closed against the eighth seed, Janko Tipsarevic, yesterday. The top-10 station of his opponent and his own past as a quasi-contender here were arguably justification for the elevation of this contest to show-court status. Cynics suspect opportunism on behalf of the draw committee.
Those expecting tennis rollerball left disappointed. Nonconformity extended no further than the copious body art and unnecessary, white-framed shades favoured by Tipsarevic, and an unconvincing Nalbandian quibble when the umpire jumped the gun with an overrule at 3-4 and deuce in the second set. "They never do mistakes at 15-all," he said. "All mistakes are in the deuce, the breakpoints, the very important moments. I don't know why with technology they are still doing some mistakes. "
The call affected nothing. Hawkeye proved Nalbandian right, but he was a meek presence, offering only brittle resistance en route to a 4-6, 6-7, 2-6 defeat. Ten years ago Nalbandian progressed here to his only grand slam final, against the equally abrasive Lleyton Hewitt. Though he was thrashed in straight sets, his first appearance at a grass-court event was thought to presage a career of some substance. Nalbandian reached a ranking of world No 3 yet was a trick or two shy of the alchemy required to convert bump and grind into grand slam gold.
He started with an ace yesterday, imparting legitimate violence on the ball to send Tipsarevic the wrong way. There was in that explosive start a hint of what he had been. There was also a sense of lingering mortification associated with the events at Queen's that would not quite go away. Nalbandian expressed his remorse afterwards and revealed how the players had offered reassurance.
"I feel ashamed and sorry for my unfortunate and regrettable reaction. I never intended to hurt him. I don't have any more to say than sorry. Obviously their support meant a lot to me because it was given in a moment that was really hard for me. Their support cheered me up and helps me demonstrate that my action had no intention to harm the line umpire. I think everybody understood it was not a good thing that I did. It was very unlucky as well. I think everybody recognises that," he said.
Tipsarevic appeared trapped by the awkward atmosphere. There is clearly a personality trying to get out but, beyond the obvious display inked on both arms and his look-at-me specs, he too was subdued, rarely rising above the minimum required to see off his opponent. Surprisingly, it took the best part of two and three-quarter hours to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's.
Over on Court 19 the demon racket-wrecker Dmitry Tursunov disappointed the cognoscenti with a quiet exit in straight sets against Florian Mayer. In his spare time Tursunov acts as an agony uncle on tennis portal The Tennis Space, where he is far more explosive and also offers expertise on how best to smash your bat. There is special praise for those who mangle rackets on grass.
"I remember going through one 10-day period when I broke about 10 or 15," he said. "That was a little crazy. But, if you are having a bad day, then it's the best way to take out your frustrations. I'm impressed with anyone who can break a racket on a grass court. That's really manly. Even a girl can break their racket on a hard court. But doing it on grass, that's difficult. I remember doing it once on grass, when I was really pissed off, and it ended up sticking out of the grass like a spear."
Ryan Harrison was the third man bringing "form" to Wimbledon. The 20-year-old American, prompted by the loss of his serve, was censured during his first-round defeat at the French Open by Gilles Simon, after tossing his racket behind him and almost taking out a ball boy as he ran on to the court.
Falling a set behind to Yen-Hsun Lu, Harrison had observers at Court 12 shuffling in their seats in anticipation of another eruption. The boy is learning. With a shot at Novak Djokovic the prize in round two, Harrison eschewed the volcano route in favour of application and was rewarded with the next three sets and the match.