By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina's David Nalbandian was defaulted from his Queen's Club final against Croatia's Marin Cilic on Sunday for kicking out and injuring a linesman.
Nalbandian was leading 7-6 3-3 when he dropped serve in the seventh game and reacted by slamming his right foot into a wooden advertising board which disintegrated and caused a nasty gash on official Andrew McDougall's left leg.
A shocked McDougall cried out and instantly clutched his leg. When he rolled up his beige trousers, blood could be seen seeping from his shin. He received some on-court attention before being escorted off the ground to the club's medical centre.
After prolonged discussions between a number of tournament and ATP officials, umpire Fergus Murphy awarded Cilic the match by disqualifying Nalbandian for "unsportsmanlike behavior".
The 12,000 capacity crowd booed, whistled and chanted "play on" but it was match over. Cilic and Nalbandian both retreated to their seats unable to believe the events that had just unfolded.
ATP rules state instant disqualification in such instances but the Argentine, a Wimbledon finalist in 2002, felt he had been harshly punished and lashed out again during a rather strange presentation ceremony.
"I'm very sorry to do that," the 30-year-old told the crowd who had been booing and jeering after the final had been cut short.
"Sometimes you get frustrated on court and it's tough to control... sometimes I do a mistake.
"It is a tough moment to end a final like that. Sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP. It is a mistake and I have to pay for that.
"I disagree with that (abandoning the final). Everybody makes mistakes. I don't feel it had to end like that, especially a final. I'm very sorry," he added as the crowd cheered him on.
"There are a lot of rules and sometimes the ATP don't do anything. The rule book is very big. The ATP have made mistakes with the players and nothing happens."
Nalbandian's moment of madness not only cost him the chance of winning his first grasscourt title but he also forfeited his prize money (at least $56,800) and ranking points for the week. He also faces a further fine once officials have had a chance to examine the incident.
Cilic was simply a bystander to the events that curtailed the final but he was roundly booed as went up to pick up the oversized Queen's trophy.
"It's definitely not the way I wanted to win it. It feels very bitter... as the match was getting hot... it's tough to see a final finish like this," Cilic, 23, said after winning his seventh title.
Tournament director Chris Kermode said rules had to be obeyed.
"David Nalbandian ran across and in frustration kicked the panel out from underneath the line judge. It splintered and went into his leg and cut it, leaving him quite seriously injured," he said.
"To have the match ending this way is extremely disappointing but there isn't much we can do about it. Rules are rules. We are under the governance of ATP rules.
"We have this great crowd and great final and you'd like to think you can bend the rules but I can see from their (ATP's) point of view it's difficult because you (can't) allow a precedent here."
According to the ATP, Nalbandian is the first man to be defaulted in a final since records started being kept in 1980. ($1 = 0.7921 euros)
(Editing by Alison Wildey)