Dan Granot and Angela Simon clinched APP Sunmed Hilton Head senior mixed pro doubles gold on Saturday night against Scott Moore and Mary Helen Atkins, but not without a bit of tense controversy.
Watch this point in game 2 at 7-8-2 with Granot serving (Lauren McLaughlin and Adam Stone are your excellent color commentators). Granot tosses up a surprise third-shot lob (we made the same “oooh” sound that Lauren and Adam did as the lob landed perfectly on the baseline and created the intended stress and havoc). What we didn’t expect was the protest from Moore, who immediately pointed to the back fence and sponsor signs as hindrances. He told the ref that his partner “didn’t have room” to retrieve the lob and asked if it was “interference:”
Adam reacted with disbelief (“Is this a joke, or is this real?” he wondered) as Moore immediately lobbied the refs and asked for head ref Byron Freso to mediate.
Granot was also rather upset, hurling his paddle to the ground as Simon tried to calm him down. Lauren and Adam continued to be astonished, with Lauren noting that any shot that landed too close to the fence would “literally be interference.”
The players and refs were not mic’ed up, so it’s hard to discern exactly what happened. From Lauren and Adam’s commentary, it seems that Moore asserted that pro athletes were informed at the beginning of the day to “watch out” for shots affected by the cramped space of the Hilton Head courts (something that we’ve seen others note about the facility before). We guess this means they apparently were encouraged to ask for do-overs, or somehow led to infer that they could do so? The problem, as Lauren pointed out, is that it is an almost “impossible” standard to apply as a blanket rule. Any hard-angled shot missed by a team could qualify. Adam responds by pointing out that he had been at previous tournaments where refs did in fact tell players they were due do-overs if they clipped their paddles on back fences.
Adam also agreed that allowing so much discretion and gray-area wiggle room in high-stakes, for-profit tournaments was problematic. Several minutes go by. The two female opponents dinked with each to stay warm. Separately, Adam and Lauren noted that Moore had called the interference on Watkins’ behalf, which Granot took issue with, because Watkins appeared not to have a problem with the wall being in her way until Moore protested after they lost the point.
After nearly a 10-minute delay, head ref Freso ruled that the point be played over because the courts were not USAP-regulation courts and players were given “extra discretion” to complain about space limitations. Granot fumed about the order to replay the point, while Moore retorted “Get over it.”
Granot and Simon got the ultimate last word, winning the match and the gold 10-12,11-4,11-7.
- For amateurs competing in tournaments: Never be afraid to lodge a protest, even if you’ll be called names and be put under pressure to give in. Remember: At the beginning of the squabble, Adam thought it was a “joke.” But as more information came to light, he concluded that Moore’s point was “reasonable,” even as he and Lauren largely sided with Granot.
- For tournament directors: Adam and Lauren are correct that specific scenarios created by limited space need to be spelled out. Otherwise, the discretion can and will be abused by bad-faith competitors or it will create too many time-sucking disruptions as every new scenario is litigated.