I was digging through my old tennis archives tonight and happened upon this incident which occurred during the finals of the 2012 Queen’s Club Tournament. The match was between Marin Čilić of Croatia and Argentine David Nalbandian. I’d been covering Nalbandian all week as I was shooting for a South American Magazine and the best way to describe his style of play was hostile. He was playing well but he was also playing with a rage that most players at least try to mask. During his matches he would predictably fly off the handle and capturing him smashing his racket onto the finely manicured lawn became routine. However, during that fateful final match his routine escalated. After having won the first set, Nalbandian was trailing 3-4 in the second. Čilić seeing a comeback in sight sent a rocket over the net that Nalbandian couldn’t handle. With his frustration no longer under control, he ran over to a plywood advertising hoarding and gave it a mighty punt causing it to break leaving a solid gash in the left shin of line judge who was sitting just behind it. I was armed with my 70-200mm lens just to the right of where the incident occurred. With my camera still fixed on Nalbandian it took me a minute to realize what had happened. I could see in his eyes that he had finally grasped the gravity of his actions and when I found McDougall’s leg through my viewfinder I realized why. Blood at a tennis match? Blood at a tennis match in London? How delightfully out of the ordinary? The head judge jumped into action with fans, coaches and players alike frozen in a daze of uncertainty. Did this mean Čilić would win by a disqualification? Was that possible? After a short deliberation that decision was made and the irate yet apologetic Argentine hurried off the court. The still bewildered and seemingly disappointed Croat sauntered over to the net and received the enormous championship trophy thus ending the bloodiest tennis match many of us will ever witness. Nalbandian was later quoted as saying “Sometimes you get angry, “Sometimes you cannot control those moments. Maybe you throw a racket or maybe you scream or maybe you do something like that. So many things happen.” Indeed they can. And occasionally those things include losing out on £44,000 in the blink of an eye and the clot of a blood drop.
And here’s a video of the kick heard round the courts. if you pause and squint at 2:02 you might catch my cameo.