The final of the Aegon Championships, widely seen as a warm-up to Wimbledon, ended bitterly as chair umpire Fergus Murphy dismissed Nalbandian for unsportsmanlike behaviour, thus granting victory to opponent Marin Cilic.
With Nalbandian leading 1-0 in sets, the world No39 missed a running forehand and booted the advertising board in frustration. Line judge Andrew McDougall was left bleeding profusely by the incident.
At the time Cilic was trailing Nalbandian, having lost the first set 7-6 (7-3) on a tie break, with the second set tied at 3-3.
Deprived of a full match’s entertainment, the sell-out crowd booed and chanted “play on”, but the officials stuck by their decision.
Addressing the crowd during an awkward post-match ceremony, Nalbandian was contrite yet also appeared to blame tennis’s governing body, the ATP.
“I am very sorry. Sometimes you get very frustrated on court. It’s a tough moment to end a final like that but sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP playing so many tournaments,” he said.
Arguing that the final should not have been stopped, Nalbandian added: “The rule book is very big and I can tell you the ATP do a lot to the players and nothing happens.”
Yet senior Queen’s official Chris Kermode said there was no option but to end the game. “There’s not a lot we can do about it. We are under the governance of ATP rules. You’d like to think you can bend the rules but [then] it sets a precedent.”
Line judge McDougall was “quite seriously injured” in the incident, Kermode added.