Now the UMPIRE in tennis’ ‘new low for sportsmanship’ row comes under fire as Martina Navratilova calls her ‘unfit to call matches’, as player who sparked rival’s panic attack returns to court

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Now the UMPIRE in tennis’ ‘new low for sportsmanship’ row comes under fire as Martina Navratilova calls her ‘unfit to call matches’, as player who sparked rival’s panic attack returns to court

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has slammed the umpire at the centre of the ‘new low for sportsmanship’ row, claiming she is ‘not fit to call clay court matches’.

Just days after the conclusion of Wimbledon, the world of tennis was left shocked after Hungarian player Amarissa Toth was accused of ‘disgusting’ and ‘disrespectful’ behaviour during her Budapest Open match against Zhang Shuai.

Zhang, a former world No 22, retired from the clay court match in floods of tears after the 20-year-old erased a ball mark following a disputed line call. The 34-year-old had struck a crosscourt forehand which appeared to land on the line, only for the umpire to call the shot out.

The Chinese tennis player argued with the umpire and called for the tournament supervisor for several minutes whilst being mocked and jeered by the crowd, and Toth added to the noise, laughing at Shuai as she became increasingly frustrated.

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The incident drew ire from 18-time Grand Slam champion Navratilova, who launched a scathing attack of both the umpire and Toth.

The umpire involved in Amarissa Toth (not pictured) and Zhang Shuai (left) has come under fire

The umpire involved in Amarissa Toth (not pictured) and Zhang Shuai (left) has come under fire

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova slammed the umpire, claiming she's 'not fit to call matches'

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova slammed the umpire, claiming she’s ‘not fit to call matches’

The 18-time Grand Slam champion also labelled Toth as a 'bad sport' for her actions

The 18-time Grand Slam champion also labelled Toth as a ‘bad sport’ for her actions

Navraitlova took to Twitter to voice her disapproval of the call made by the umpire, with the replays appearing to show that the ball had bounced on the line before being incorrectly called out.

She tweeted: ‘Pathetic from any angle – umpire is not fit to call clay court matches and Toth is a bad sport.’

The ball appeared to leave a visible mark on the line before it was rubbed out by Toth's shoe

The ball appeared to leave a visible mark on the line before it was rubbed out by Toth’s shoe

Following Zhang’s remonstrations with the umpire, the match restarted only momentarily before the dispute continued, with Toth erasing the mark made on the clay to the disapproval of Zhang.

Zhang shouted to her opponent to ‘keep the mark!’ before adding: ‘What are you doing? Why would you do that?’ 

Toth replied: ‘Because you’re making problems, that’s why.’

Whilst Zhang won the next game, her distress forced her to call for her physio and led to her retirement, with commentators describing how the experience had left the player ‘in floods of tears’ and possibly suffering a ‘panic attack’. 

Three Australian tennis players in Ellen Perez, Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville led the outrage. 

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Perez tweeted: ‘That’s a quick way to lose respect from your peers. I’m actually shook by the level of disrespect from this girl. If I see this girl tomorrow I will tell her how disgusted I am.’ 

Tomljanovic added: ‘Absolutely disgusting behaviour. Shuai is a better person than a lot of us for shaking the ref and that girl’s hand.’ 

Saville wrote: ‘Zero respect for this Toth girl. Her reputation is ruined.’ 

World No 45 Zhang was left in tears and unable to continue on court after the line dispute

World No 45 Zhang was left in tears and unable to continue on court after the line dispute

Toth, 20, deliberately scuffed the mark made by Zhang's ball as she continued to talk to the umpire about overturning the call

Toth, 20, deliberately scuffed the mark made by Zhang’s ball as she continued to talk to the umpire about overturning the call

Toth denied that she behaved badly in her highly controversial match against Zhang

Toth's behaviour during the match was heavily criticised by fans and players alike online

Toth’s behaviour during the match was heavily criticised by fans and players alike online

But Toth was unapologetic about her actions when queried about the match on Radio Kossuth. 

‘I don’t understand why she made such a fuss out of it, that she wanted to overrule the judge’s decision,’ the Hungarian player said. ‘I don’t understand why she didn’t accept it, but she made trouble for herself’. 

The tournament’s communications manager Erik Siklos instead chose to draw attention to the crowd’s treatment of Toth, when drawn on the subject on Hungarian broadcaster MTI, noting that when the player erased the mark she was heckled by ‘several people from the Chinese team’ and called ‘disrespectful’.

Toth returns to the court on Thursday to play Ukrainian Kateryna Baindl next in the last-16 in Budapest, just 48 hours since the controversial incident with Zhang.

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Who are the players involved? 

Zhang Shuai

Shuai, 34, who has spent over a decade in the sport, is a two-time major champion in women’s doubles after claiming victory at the Australian Open in 2019 and the US Open two years later. Both of those double triumphs came alongside Australian partner Samantha Stosur.

The Chinese star also reached the Wimbledon final in 2022 with Belgium’s Elise Mertens, only to suffer defeat against Alexa Guarachi and Andreja Klepac.

She has a career-high doubles ranking of world No 2 and has picked up 12 titles on the WTA tour.

As a single, Shuai has reached two major quarter-finals at the Australian Open in 2016 and Wimbledon three years later. She is one of only five Chinese tennis players in history to make it to this stage of a Grand Slam and has also been ranked as high as No 22 in the world.

Amarissa Toth

Toth, 20, is only a few years into her professional career after making her WTA Tour main-draw debut at the Budapest Grand Prix in 2021.

She has a career-high ranking of 534 in singles and 264 in doubles, and has claimed 12 ITF Circuit finals titles – 11 of them coming in doubles.

The Hungarian youngster’s highest rank win so far came in the 2022 Slovak Open, where she got the better of Germany’s Eva Lys in the first round.

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