Watch: Tennis player disqualified for smashing ball into umpire’s face

Marc Polmans of Australia plays a forehand against Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain during the 2022 NSW Open quarterfinals match at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on November 04, 2022 in Sydney, Australia
Marc Polmans is not the first player to have struck a tennis official with the ball - Getty Images/Andy Cheung

Australian tennis player Marc Polmans was disqualified from the Shanghai Masters on Tuesday for striking the umpire in the face with a ball on match point.

Polmans, who is ranked 140th in the world, was one point away from qualifying for the Shanghai Masters main draw when the incident occurred.

He had won the first set 7-6, and was 6-5 up in the second set tie-break with a match point on the line but netted his volley. Instead of regrouping, he saw red and smashed the ball in anger. In doing so, he accidentally hit the umpire in the face at speed and from close range, as he had been standing only four metres away from the chair.

Polmans, 26, immediately approached the umpire to check his condition, but was promptly defaulted for the dangerous outburst. His Italian opponent, Stefano Napolitano, instead progressed to the main draw of the ATP Masters 1000 event.

The ATP rulebook states that “players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a tennis ball while on the grounds of the tournament site”, and ball abuse includes “intentionally or recklessly hitting a ball with disregard of the consequences”. The unsportsmanlike conduct offence carries an automatic default in cases where a person is harmed in the process.

On Twitter, Polmans’s compatriot and former Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios reacted by speculating how much he would be fined. “Interested to see what the fine will be,” Kyrgios wrote, attaching a laughing emoji. “All things considered (15 thousand pounds) for the bottle shake at queens,” he added, referring to the £13,000 fine he incurred in 2018 at Queen’s Club in London, for making an inappropriate action with a water bottle.

‌Kyrgios is no stranger to ramping up fines and previous incidents similar to Polmans’s have occurred across the tour.

In 2017, Denis Shapovalov was defaulted and fined $7,000 for accidentally hitting an umpire with the ball in Great Britain’s Davis Cup victory over Canada, in an angry outburst similar to Polmans’s.

Novak Djokovic famously became the fifth player to ever be defaulted from a major tournament at the US Open in 2020, when he struck a ball at a line judge’s throat accidentally during his fourth round match. He was docked the $250,000 prize money he had earned up to that point as well as the ranking points, and fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Earlier this year, Japanese doubles player Miyu Kato was defaulted from the French Open for hitting a ball girl in the neck. Though most considered the penalty to be harsh, as Kato had been passing the ball back to the ball girl, rather than reacting in frustration, her appeal was still rejected and she lost ranking points for reaching the third round, as well as prize money as per the grand slam rules.