London - No matter what David Nalbandian goes on to achieve in his career, it is unlikely he will ever forget a moment of madness that left a linesman bloodied, an angry crowd feeling short-changed and an opponent bewildered.
On Sunday, Nalbandian was leading 7-6, 3-3 in the Queen's Club final against Marin Cilic but after being broken in the seventh game a red mist descended over the Argentine and he slammed his right foot into a wooden advertising board which disintegrated and caused a nasty gash on linesman Andrew McDougall's left leg.
A shocked McDougall cried out and instantly clutched his leg. When he rolled up his beige trousers, blood could be seen trickling down his shin.
As soon as tournament supervisor Tom Barnes saw the extent of the injury, Nalbandian was given his marching orders.
“Once I saw the injury... I didn't have any other option,” Barnes, who has been an ATP tournament supervisor for 22 years, told reporters.
Asked if he had ever seen an official injured so badly by the actions of a player, he added with a wry smile: “No, I can't say I have. I think the other times it's been less bloody.”
Tournament director Chris Kermode added: “Anyone who saw it... it was very clear. It was sort of a red card in football. You're off.”
The problem was some sections of the 12 000-strong crowd, who had been sitting behind the linesman, would not have seen the incident and could not understand why the final, which according to Cilic was “just starting to hot up”, was abruptly halted.
The fans booed, whistled and chanted “play on” but it was match over. Cilic and Nalbandian both retreated to their seats.
“David certainly did not mean for this to happen, however the rules are very clear in a situation like this and causing injury to someone is an automatic default for any player,” Brad Drewett, ATP executive chairperson and president, said.
While Cilic summed up the episode as something that “isn't going to happen (again) in next hundred years”, Nalbandian was left to join a long list of luminaries in tennis's “hall of shame”.
The 30-year-old has a reputation for being a hot-head and it was only five months ago that he was slapped with an $8 000 fine for throwing water over an Australian Open official - an accusation he denied - following a controversial second-round defeat.
Serena Williams and John McEnroe are two high-profile members of the 'defaulters' club' but the Americans both got into trouble for injuring the sensitivities of officials with their language rather than causing any bodily harm.
Tim Henman is also an offender, having been bounced out of a Wimbledon men's doubles match after accidentally hitting a ball girl in a fit of anger.
Nalbandian faces a fine of up to $10 000 despite already forfeiting his prize money (at least $56 800) and ranking points for the week.
“I know (what) I did (is) a mistake, 100 percent. I feel very sorry to the guy. I didn't want to do that. But sometimes you get angry and you cannot control those moments,” said Nalbandian.
The 30-year-old also lashed out at the men's governing body during the presentation ceremony, suggesting the ATP does not look after player interests, which left observers wondering if Nalbandian could be slapped with an additional fine or even banned from the tour.
“I think you have to give the guy a chance to let off some steam there. I mean, he didn't intend to do what he did,” Barnes added.
“He intended to kick the box but he did not intend to hurt the guy.
“When he realised that he had, he felt bad. Then when he realised the consequences of that, he felt even worse.” - Reuters