Nick Kyrgios demanded his rival be defaulted at Wimbledon, but did Stefanos Tsitsipas actually hit a fan and what does the rule book say?

So, did Stefanos Tsitsipas actually hit a fan at Wimbledon?

Nick Kyrgios certainly thought so, refusing to play and demanding the Greek star be defaulted in their third round match on Sunday morning after the most dramatic moment of a fiery clash on Court 1.

It didn’t matter in the end as Kyrgios won a thriller 6-7 6-4 6-3 7-6, but he still felt wrong by the perceived injustice.

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Kyrgios had just squared the match at a set-all when Tsitsipas sent a backhand volley into the audience. A slow-motion replay appeared to show the ball bouncing off a wall and potentially connecting with the back of the head of a man seated close to the court.

Some on social media thought the errant ball connected with a spectator, but others suggested it avoided human contact.

Veteran American tennis reporter Jon Wertheim tweeted: “Unclear if Tsitsipas firing a ball into stands in frustration hit a fan. But Kyrgios has a point. Should aim/accuracy determine level of punishment?”

Journalist John Latimer suggested it was a “narrow miss” while tennis writer Yasmin Syed said: “That move from Tsitsipas was dangerous and he narrowly missed hitting a fan. That should be a default.”

American reporter Vivek Jacob added Tsitsipas “narrowly” missed a fan.

After the incident, Kyrgios told the umpire Tsitsipas should have been defaulted, like Novak Djokovic was at the 2020 US Open when he hit a ball into the throat of a line judge.

“Is that a default or what? He just hit the ball at the f***ing crowd. Are you dumb? So you can hit a ball at the crowd, hit someone and not get defaulted? Are you dumb?” he said.

“You’re a disgrace. You change the rules whenever you want …

“Give me all the supervisors. I’m not playing until we get to the bottom of it.”

But by the letter of the law, was Kyrgios right? The International Tennis Federation rules suggest it’s a murky area and given the doubt around whether Tsitsipas’ stray ball actually hit anyone, the chair umpire was within his rights to only clock the world No. 5 with a code violation and point penalty.

Under the “abuse of balls” section of the rule book, any player who hits a ball “dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences” can be punished via a point penalty.

When it comes to “defaults” as set out in the rules, the referee in consultation with the grand slam supervisor “may declare a default for either a single violation of this code (of conduct) or pursuant to the point penalty schedule” referenced earlier in the document.

There’s no clear rule about being defaulted immediately for hitting a ball into a crowd.

As tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg pointed out on Twitter: “Worth pointing out here that the rules about an automatic default for striking or injuring someone are nowhere near as black-and-white as folks think they are.

“Even with Djokovic at the 2020 US Open, to use the example Kyrgios used, not an obvious rule to point to.”

Wertheim said the grey area in this part of the sport needs to be extinguished.

“Criminal law distinguishes between attempted and murder, based on aim … tennis law needs to be above that,” he tweeted. “Smack a ball into the stands and you’re done, regardless of whether you’re lucky enough to miss hitting someone. The. End.

“The idea that this near-miss stands; and Novak’s far less forceful 2020 @usopen swat led to immediate default … this rule needs a serious reassessment.”

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