WIMBLEDON – The biggest win of Adil Shamasdin’s professional career came Monday at Wimbledon, when he and partner Jonny Marray of Great Britain prevailed in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 14-12 marathon over No. 15 seeds Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Marcel Granollers of Spain.
The victory put them in the quarterfinals of the men’s doubles – a first for the 34-yearold from Pickering, Ont. who has spent much his career on the lower-level Challenger Tour.
But what will most be remembered about this titanic struggle will be that it ended with something some British press is already calling “Pee-Gate”.
Yes, it is what you’re probably thinking it is.
The end of the match might not have featured the ugliest tirade of the fortnight so far – Serbia’s Viktor Troicki wins; all these rain delays and cancellations sure are making the players edgy – but it was up there.
It all started when Cuevas asked to use the toilet, somewhere around 9-8 or 10-9 in that final set, which had long gone past regulation time with no tiebreak in the deciding sets at Wimbledon.
Chair umpire Aurélie Tourte wouldn’t grant his request. The rules state that comfort breaks should preferably be taken at the end of sets, but that each team is only allowed a total of two breaks for a five-set match.
Clearly Cuevas and Granollers had used them up. They could have another, but any additional breaks have to be completed within the normal 90-second changeover or the chair umpire starts the stopwatch. Unless they could fly up to the nearby members’ veranda on that side of the Centre Court, and used their private facilities and flown back down, they would have ended up being defaulted for time violations.
Clearly that two-break limit needs to be revisited at Wimbledon, which is the only Grand Slam where best of five is played in doubles, and with no tiebreak. But Tourte was just enforcing the rules; the Cuevas-Granollers team may have expected she would bend them. That wouldn't have been an unreasonable thing to ask. But the umpire can't do that.
And then the fun began. Well, it wasn’t much fun for Tourte, or for Shamasdin and Marray.
There were rumours floating around, since dispelled by the tournament, that because Cuevas wasn’t granted the toilet break, he… ahem, used an empty tennis-ball can to deal with the situation. Any port in a storm, or something. And that, later, he had gifted Tourte with the, well, un-empty can.
Apparently this was not the case; the can was presented to Tourte as evidence that the alleged can desecration did not, in fact, take place.
“I guess it had something to do with a can, or something. I really don’t know. I think it has something to do with, even bathroom breaks? I’m not exactly sure,” Shamasdin said, deadpan, as arguably the largest press corps he’d ever had after one of his matches listened with rapt attention.
Tourte handed out a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct – perhaps for the very threat of using the tennis can for … purposes for which it was not designed.
Many games later, when Cuevas was serving as 12-13 (it was the eighth consecutive service game they had to hold, or lose the match), he double-faulted twice go down love-30.
In anger, he whacked a ball out of the court; Tourte assessed a second code violation, which resulted in a point penalty, a score of love-40 and three match points for Shamasdin and Marray.
Cuevas and Granollers would have none of it; they refused to continue play on until the supervisor arrived. It took awhile.
Meanwhile, it began to drizzle. And it was chilly. “They were obviously angry, but I don’t think she could have done much more about it, really. They were just refusing to get up play, so she had to call the supervisor. He came, and probably told them exactly the same as she told them,” Marray said.
Ironically, Shamasdin himself said he actually had to go to the bathroom at that point.
Shamasdin, and no doubt has seen the full range of officiating quality in his travels, said he didn’t think Tourte had control of the match.
“Bottom line, she made a few mistakes early, on both ends. I think we were all on her, so she was definitely flustered,” he said. “I don’t think she handled it correctly, either, even at the end with that 10-15 minute delay for us.”
It got worse. When Cuevas was headed back to the baseline to serve, with three match points against him to come, Shamasdin said Tourte started saying “code violation” for the third time. “They went nuts. The supervisor was, like, ‘No, I told them to play. They’re going to play,” he said. “I think (the supervisor) kind of told the lady to let them play. It was kind of confusing.”
After one final volley from Shamasdin wrapped up the big victory, it got even more intense.
Not surprisingly, Cuevas and Granollers didn’t shake Tourte’s hand. But Granollers then began to harass Tourte verbally, going after her in two separate passes.
Finally, a big, burly security official put his arm around Tourte’s shoulder and escorted her off the court.
Cuevas and Granollers didn’t feel their English was sufficient enough to explain the situation adequately to journalists. “She lied, she lied,” he said. “She thought one thing that was not true.”
Sounds like that was the improper can misconduct situation.
Forgotten in all that was the fact that as the match progressed, the level of tennis got better with each set. There were some dazzling displays of doubles prowess. By the last hour or so, both teams were letting it all hang out, diving at balls, making crazy volleys at full stretch. Cuevas even hit a volley behind his back.
“I think for the most part it was just all adrenaline. I was telling Johnny my legs were really, really heavy, his legs were heavy, I’m sure the other guys’ legs were pretty heavy as well,” Shamasdin said. “I tried to keep doing what I normally do, move around quite a bit, and let the muscle memories kind of come into play.
“I think everybody was really focused onto the match, and everyone was kind of in it at that point, and went into automatic.”
Cuevas and Granollers were ahead for most of the fifth set, and served for the match at 5-4. But they were broken, and after that, they were the ones who always had to serve to stay alive.
Shamasdin and Marray received a wild card into the event by virtue of Marray’s nationality as well as the fact that he had, against all odds, won the title in 2012 in the very same situation with the Danish player Frederik Nielsen.
They had already upset the defending champions, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau (seeded no. 4) in straight sets in the first round and will play No. 12 seeds Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi in the quarter-finals.
It was only the second time in Shamasdin’s career that he had ever played more than three sets, the first time he has played a fifth set, because only Wimbledon plays that format. The 174 points played in that fifth set alone were nearly half the total for the whole match.
“For me, I was pretty happy with how my body held up, especially with my movement, my arm, my shoulders. Mentally I think we kind of stayed strong, stayed as a team, especially when we were down 15-40 a couple of times in the fifth. I think that helped,” Shamasdin said.
There is surely going to be more fallout from this. In the end, Marray said, no matter what happens you must respect the officials. “If you think you’ve got some bad calls you’ve got to take them on the chin at some point and get on with the game. You should try and be on your best behaves. She’s a neutral in the whole thing,” he said. “I know it’s difficult at times, I’ve said a few words in anger occasionally, but you have to be able to put it to one side and get on with it.”
Meanwhile, Cuevas and Granollers’ coach was reportedly looking for them. Marray ended up with the most British of sunburns on his face. And as Shamasdin left the media interview area, he asked one of the escorts to direct him to … the nearest men's room.