Andrey Rublev’s controversial default in Dubai sparks ‘need for VAR in tennis’ calls from players, experts

Andrey Rublev was controversially defaulted from his semi-final at the Dubai Tennis Championships for allegedly using an obscenity while screaming at a line judge. The disqualification saw Alexander Bublik move to the final where he will face Ugo Humbert.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev (C) argues with an official after he was defaulted, as Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan (R) looks on.(AFP)

The incident took place in the deciding set when Bublik won a point to take a 6-5 lead. The Russian instantly pointed to the baseline, and then walked to the line judge to scream at his face.

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A Russian-speaking official informed ATP supervisor Roland Herfel that Rublev used an obscenity in his native language. Meanwhile, Rublev denied the accusation and said that he spoke in English. But umpire Mirian Bley ended up defaulting Rublev for unsportsmanlike conduct, although Bublik urged that he was okay to continue. Bublik ended up winning 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-5.

Reacting to the incident after the match, Bublik said, “We have this proof every week that when the tournament is with electronic line calling, we don’t have these troubles.”

“Players are not (going) crazy, it’s our passion. We live for this. We grew up dreaming to play in these stadiums, then some guy who is working for three years as a line judge (is) staying there deciding something… Then you come up to the situation like this.

“Is it the fault of Andrey? Maybe. Is it the fault of the umpire? Maybe… This is what we need to understand: We cannot take players away, but we can easily take away the umpires. And that would solve many issues,” he added.

Reacting to the incident, former player Brad Gilbert, who is currently coaching Coco Gauff, took to X to ask every ATP and WTA tournament to use video assistant technology. “Just saw what happened to Rubles on the default in Dubai, the technology is there every @atptour @WTA tournament should be mandatory now to have electronic line calling, and for incidentals so frustrating to not have it now, so much easier for players to except calls move on,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, world no. 24 Alejandro Davidovich also called for VAR in tennis, something which has become common in football. “Very unfair that they disqualify Rublev without first ensuring that what the line judge understood is correct. That rule should be reviewed and changed. Shameful. We need VAR in tennis”, he wrote on X.

WTA world no. 12 Daria Kasatkina also echoed similar sentiments. Taking to X, she wrote, “So you can just default a player, take his points and money away, without even checking a video replay??? What a joke, another confirmation we need a VAR in tennis and electronic line calling on all tournaments.”

Rublev won the 2022 final, and then lost to Daniil Medvedev in last year’s Dubai final. On the other hand, Medvedev lost to Ugo Humbert in the other semi-final clash.

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