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The ‘umpire mistake’ that ended Alexander Zverev’s French Open hopes

ROLAND GARROS — Alexander Zverev bemoaned an apparent mistake by umpire Renaud Lichtenstein in the fifth set of his French Open final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz that he felt changed the course of the match.

Zverev, 28, was adamant that an Alcaraz second serve at break point deep into the final had landed out, a conviction borne out by the HawkEye data seen by the German after the match.

Had the ball been given “out”, it would have draw Zverev level in the fifth set; as it was, Alcaraz held for the lead and was champion four games later, winning 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

“There’s a difference whether you’re down 3-1 in the fifth set or you’re back to 2-All,” Zverev said afterwards.

“That’s a deciding difference. It’s frustrating in the end, but it is what it is.

“Umpires make mistakes. They’re also human, and that’s okay. But of course in a situation like that, you wish there wouldn’t be mistakes.”

He added: “I break back there, I have break chances, and then in the next service game, a fifth set can go the other way.”

The French Open is the only grand slam that uses no electronic line-calling systems in tournament play, although that is set to change next year.

The French Tennis Federation is yet to disclose exactly which electronic line-calling system they will use next year, with HawkEye not believed to be as accurate on clay as it is on other surfaces – and this specific call falls within normal margins of error.

“Players normally right. Shotspot [HawkEye’s on-screen graphics] showed Zverev saw mark correct way,” wrote Andy Roddick, former world No 1, on social media.

“Cant replace real life playing reps [experience] when reading marks correctly. Good riddance to these umpires trying. Bring in the machines full time.”

He added: “They don’t use the technology on court [un]til next year. Decision made by French Open. And a dumb one.”

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 9, 2024 Germany's Alexander Zverev with umpire Renaud Lichtenstein during the men's singles final against Spain's Carlos Alcaraz REUTERS/Yves Herman
Zverev was determined to convince umpire Lichtenstein he had made a mistake (Photo: Reuters)

Zverev had already seen the first of three break points eradicated by a smartly placed Alcaraz forehand, but thought the Spaniard had done the work for him a point later.

The on-court line judge adjudged Alcaraz’s second serve “out”, only for umpire Lichtenstein to overrule him after coming down his chair to inspect the mark left on the court.

According to the rules, if a call is changed to “in” on a second serve, the server is given the chance to hit another first serve, meaning Zverev was denied the chance to attack the serve and ended up firing a backhand long.

Alcaraz saved two more break points in the game to hold and frustrate Zverev even further; the German won just one more game in the entire match.

“He played fantastic. He played better than me the fourth and fifth set,” Zverev said.

“I lost focus, and on my serve I didn’t get the power from my legs anymore, which is weird, because normally I do not get tired. I don’t cramp, I don’t get tired normally.

“But again, against Carlos it’s a different intensity, so maybe that was the case a bit. Maybe I have to look at my preparation. Maybe I have to look at how I do things on a physical base as well.

“Of course, I felt from the tennis level I was playing decent and he was playing decent for three sets. Then I dropped a lot.”

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