A bitter row exploded on Court 15 on Saturday when Ajla Tomljanovic accused Jelena Ostapenko of faking an injury, lying and ‘disgraceful behaviour’.
Tomljanovic, who faces Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the fourth round, had won six games on the trot to take a 4-0 lead in the decider when her opponent told the umpire she was injured and needed a medical timeout.
With the Australian about to serve, Ostapenko sat down in her chair and said: ‘I cannot continue. I have pain.’
Jelena Ostapenko (R) and Ajla Tomljanovic (L) were involved in a heated clash after their match
The Grand Slam rules state that a player must wait for the next changeover to receive medical treatment, unless they have an ‘acute injury’. The umpire called for the physio, to the fury of Tomljanovic: ‘You know she’s lying, right? We all know. Are you taking into any consideration that she looked fine for an hour and 30 and now there’s an acute injury?’
The Latvian was assessed by the physio and left the court to receive treatment. She eventually returned and Tomljanovic won 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
After a belated handshake, the war of words got personal. Ostapenko: ‘If you think I’m faking it, you can talk with the physio. Your behaviour is terrible. You have zero respect.’ Tomljanovic: ‘You’re the one to talk.’ Ostapenko: ‘What? You’re the worst player on tour.’
The row continued into the press conferences as both players doubled down. First came Ostapenko and the case for the defence.
Ostapenko (above) called a timeout when Tomljanovic was 4-0 in the final set, which angered her opponent
‘First of all, she cannot say anything because she knows zero about my injury,’ said the 24-year-old, who won the 2017 French Open. ‘And second, it was very disrespectful from her.
‘I had a problem with my abdominal in the second set. I should have called physio earlier, but I was just trying to forget the pain and focus on the game.’
And then her parting shot: ‘I think my level today was not good after the first set, because if I played at least 50 per cent I would have beaten her.’
Now the case for the prosecution. ‘I have been in situations where players use that medical timeout to put their opponent off, usually when they are losing badly,’ said Tomljanovic.
‘She can say she was injured. I don’t think she was. There was nothing wrong with her the whole match, but then why on 4-0 she calls it? She just wanted to get me off my game. Usually if you are dealing with an injury, you say, “Hey, can you call the physio on the next changeover?” You don’t just go and sit down when your opponent is about to serve to go up 5-0.
Tomljanovic thought Ostapenko was faking the injury in order to break up her rhythm
‘There was nothing wrong with her. I know when someone is injured and when they’re not.
‘Then to top it all off, for her to call me disrespectful at the end of the match — it’s laughable.
‘I think it’s disgraceful behaviour from a Slam champion, because kids look at her and, what, they see that?’
The medical timeout is a thorny issue in tennis — it is sometimes abused for tactical reasons.
But it is not an easy problem to solve, with tournaments terrified of the legal ramifications if they are seen to be denying players medical treatment.
When Tomljanovic sealed the win, Ostapenko said that her opponent’s ‘behaviour is terrible’
The Australian bit back at Ostapenko saying that the Latvian ‘was one to talk’
‘There definitely should be a rule where we prevent that from happening, because it happens way too much in the women’s game,’ said Tomljanovic.
‘But I guess you cannot deny medical help to a player. The thing is you can always lie, but this is where sportsmanship comes into play. No matter the rule, we are elite athletes and I expect more.
‘The fact that she did it at 4-0 when I was about to serve, that’s disrespectful. It’s not what you do, especially at Wimbledon. It’s the pinnacle of sport. I’m just tired of seeing it happen. We can do better than that.’
Tomljanovic will now face 18-year-old British player Emma Raducanu (above) on Monday