In the summer of 1996, Andre Agassi enjoyed tennis again after a terrible run since Miami, winning the Olympic gold in Atlanta and the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, defending the title he won a year ago. Andre came to Indianapolis with the 12-match winning streak and as the favorite against the doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, especially after winning the opening set 6-1.
Out of sudden, things changed rapidly in set number two, with Andre losing control after a break he suffered in game five to hit the ball into the stands and swore the official Dana Laconto. The umpire called for the ATP supervisor Mark Darby and after a short discussion, Darby instructed Laconto to default the American!
Andre was on the Tour for already ten and a half years and never got defaulted before despite having troubles with umpires and officials over the years, especially when he was a teenager. Agassi couldn’t agree with this decision, thinking it was too harsh but still leaving the court after a few minutes, backed by his partisan crowd who threw water bottles and paper towels to the court.
Tournament officials were aware what Agassi means to this event and tried to persuade Darby to change his decision, although nothing helped in changing the default for “verbal abuse.” The problem was, Agassi did similar things in the past and was never penalized, all until now.
The American lamented that he should have been given the point penalty first before the default but Darby insisted that he never heard anything like this before and that he was forced to go with drastic measures instantly.
Here is the post-match press conference where Andre explained what happened, at least from his point of view: “There is absolutely no disagreement in closed doors as to how bad of a call that was; how wrong after call that was.
When you give a warning, if I were to break my racket and as he is reading me my warning I would, I were to break another racket, you don’t go to a point penalty even because it is technically even in the same outburst, but not only did I start what I said to the umpire right before he was done giving me my warning, he took me straight to default.
It was just a bad call, he just choked and I think Darby right now, it is starting to sink in how bad of a call that was. They got Mark Miles on the phone to override Darby’s decision and, you know, inside the rules, he is not allowed to do that, so I suppose, I don’t know this for sure, but it was intention for him to get Darby to override his own decision, but he doesn’t have the character enough to do it.
I will take responsibility for getting a warning and I will take responsibilities for getting upset on the court, like I have done a thousand times. But I will not accept this decision. The tournament is a great tournament, the one that has been rated No.
1 by the players for what, seven, eight years now and that is the tournament that Darby decides to extend that kind of decision toward. Certainly, I am disappointed for not being here, but beyond it, I am disappointed for Indy.
It makes me want to come back here all the more to be quite honest. There is a rule in the rule book that says, yeah, for any one thing you do, you can be defaulted, but what I said to Dana was very clear and very.. something I have said a thousand times in the past ten years, and all of a sudden, today, whatever date it is, that they decided to say that crosses the line.
Yeah, I hit the ball out and he says “warning” and right when he was finishing me giving me my warning I said “F.U., Dana.” And then he calls the supervisor out and Darby gives me the hook. That was just a bad call.
I mean, at best, I deserve a point penalty. He said if you said that to Dana, then you are out of here. I was, quite honestly, in disbelief. It was tough for me to gather any thoughts, and I said, “what are you saying? That is it? It is over, like all of a sudden, like no point penalty, just warning to default?” He said, “yeah.”
And I just sat there. I was just — then he came back over. I said, get the fuck out of my face – straight out. Because I just couldn’t even begin to grasp the ignorance, the unprofessionalism, the lack of consideration for anybody, but himself.
And to get to default saying something that you have said and only gotten warnings and point penalties for, at least, sometimes not even that, is just not fair. That side of it is not fair; doesn’t change the fact that I shouldn’t have said it.
I am talking about a decision that has absolutely affected thousands of people and a lot of different people that don’t deserve to be affected by this.”