Today we come back to the refereeing error made at the worst moment of the WPT Chile Open final, which almost deprived Arturo Coello and Agustin Tapia of a victory nevertheless acquired on the ground.

In this match which opposed the world n°2 to the n°1 Juan Lebron and Ale Galan, the contentious point came with Coello/Tapia leading 6/4 5/3 and 30A on Coello's serve. Arturo Coello serves on Lebron, who uses the side window to try to surprise his opponents: but the ball arrives at the ideal height for Coello, who delivers a monumental slap, a “chancletazo" to be precise. This intermediate shot between high volley and smash bounces a few centimeters before the glass and goes like a rocket towards the net, outpacing his opponents.

The display of the score has evolved during a point

Let’s decipher the following moments:

► The attitude of the four players suggests that the ball is good and that they are about to play match point. This is what the commentators of Canal + are announcing, who qualify Lebron's return as a “daring choice”, that is to say risky at this moment of the match.

► However, if you listen carefully, you can hear the referee Honorio García announce 30/40 (“trenta/cuarenta”), as if he had judged Coello's ball to be faulty. But the display of the score, also controlled by the referee, is 40/30. Worse, during the next point, the display changes, first to 30/30, then to 30/40! It is to understand nothing about it.

Above, three images showing first the point at the source of the error, then the display at 40/30 and the one at 30/40, corrected during the next point.

► When this point ends with a final winning smash from Tapia, the latter falls for joy into Coello's arms, before Lebron steps towards the net to congratulate the winners. But Ale Galan, who came out of the track to try to recover the smash, then indicated that the match was not over: he was apparently the only one to have heard the referee announce 30/40, but said not to understand what is going on...

► During the discussion that follows, Tapia and Coello come up against a wall: the referee does not want to reconsider his decision. For him, the score is 40A and he imposes to play a “punto de oro”. Impossible to request video arbitration, because the rules do not allow going back if another point has been disputed in the meantime. Could the referee himself have requested video refereeing, as is done in football? Maybe, but it didn't.

The negotiation with Honorio Garcia

The attitude of the coaches

► During the long minutes of discussion that followed, nothing led Honorio García to change his decision. According to some sources, Ale Galan would have nevertheless proposed to replay the point of 40/30: a way of recognizing that Coello's ball at 30A was good! Judging by the images, Mariano Amat, the coach of Lebron and Galan, does not intervene. Is he aware that his players have actually lost the game or just taken aback by the situation? That of Tapia and Coello, Manu Martin, negotiates with the world No. 1, but lets his players negotiate with the referee. Everything takes place under the boos and whistles of the public, acquired fact and cause to the pair n°2.

► The rest is known: Lebron and Galan win the decisive point, then the 2nd set in the tie-break, against confused and disgusted players. In the 3rd set, the n°1s are even close to winning, but this time lose the punto de oro and, in the end, justice is done: Tapia and Coello triumph at the end of the pain, on the score of 6/4 6/7 7/5.

What consequences for the referee?

► Will there be follow-up and possible sanctions against this very experienced referee and recognized by his peers? It would be desirable. An error of judgment can obviously happen, but the sequence of events – with a display that changes during such a crucial point – is scandalous and deserves at least an investigation. And perhaps a change in procedure: either the possibility of resorting to video arbitration a posteriori, or the intervention of an umpire to clarify things; or even both.

The main thing is that in the end, Agustin Tapia and Arturo Coello were not made steal their victory. The tears they both shed at the end of the match spoke volumes about what they endured and the mental toughness they had to show to overcome such a refereeing error, “the worst thing that could happen to a player”, estimated Laura Clergue on C +.

The apologies made after the fact by Galan, on behalf of the team, are an admission of an error made at the time: Lebron and Galan could and should have granted victory to their opponents, without playing a 3rd set. However, in the heat of the moment, we can understand that they followed the referee's decision, at the cost of a regrettable lack of fair play. But to err is human and a source of learning for the future.

After 40 years of tennis, Jérôme falls into the pot of padel in 2018. Since then, he thinks about it every morning while shaving… but never shaves pala in hand! Journalist in Alsace, he has no other ambition than to share his passion with you, whether you speak French, Italian, Spanish or English.