The semi-final match between Novak Djokovic and Janic Sinner was momentarily controversial at the start of the second set. Having already sealed the first set, Djokovic was leading by a break in the second set. However, he was penalized for the rarely called decision when chair umpire Richard Hay called interference and awarded Sinner a point. (Wimbledon 2023 Final Live Updates)
The call came when Djokovic let out a long grunt following a backhand. While players may not be allowed to speak excessively loudly with their grunts and labored sounds, umpires are expected to allow time as long as is reasonable. However, Haye felt Djokovic’s grumbling started late and likely distracted Sinner from returning the ball.
Djokovic was outraged by the call and left shocked. The umpire received criticism for his decision from commentators such as John McEnroe and fans online who claimed tennis would be a very different sport if such a decision had been made.
Players seem to have such an opinion too, one of them being American Taylor Fritz. The world No. 9 took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the decision. Fritz wrote: “As I did not see this particular occasion I cannot speak. Novak doesn’t come to mind when I think of this law.
“But you can think of some players doing a lot of grunting at big points to put you off, which the umpires need to call more,” the American concluded. The decision divided many, with some arguing that Djokovic started the ball too late on Sinner’s side. Others argued that Djokovic was penalized for what was instinctive and served no purpose.
Fritz was knocked out by Yannick Hanfmann in the second round of the tournament, ending a tough year for the American. While giving his opinion on the matter, he did not name names, but he was quick to defend some of the players in his replies.
In particular, he defended Djokovic’s opponent, world number one Carlos Alcarez, in the Wimbledon final. Fritz jokingly responded to a commenter who suggested Alcaraz was guilty of being too loud in public with his muttering, and wrote, “Nah his consistent, if he ever stretches it it won’t matter if he blows a winner.”
In his press conference about the incident, Djokovic said, “I watched the replay. I saw my grunt end before he hit the shot. So I thought the chair umpire’s call was wrong. I mean, my opinion.” The point didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things as the Serbian held on and ran out a comfortable 6-3 6-4 7-6 winner over the talented Italian.