FORMER Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian launched a stinging attack on the umpire after his Australian Open hopes became the latest victim of the record-breaking tenacity of American John Isner.
Isner, who famously won the longest match in history when he beat Nicolas Mahut in an 11-hour marathon at Wimbledon in 2010, drew on his immense stamina once again yesterday to defeat Nalbandian in another five-set epic.
But the Argentinian former world No3 was outraged at the manner of his 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) 10-8 second-round elmination, which hinged on a controversial decision by umpire Kader Nouni at 8-8 in the fifth set.
Nouni over-ruled a line judge to award Isner an ace while the 16th seed defended one of three break points and, when asked by Nalbandian to refer the incident to a video replay, refused, saying his challenge had come too late.
Isner duly held serve and then broke his riled opponent in the next game to claim the match, prompting Nalbandian to call on governing body the ATP to take action against an umpire he branded “stupid”.
“I asked for Hawk-Eye as he made an overrule. I said: ‘Okay, I see the mark, I challenge’ – not a big deal, but he didn’t want to do it. How many times do we check the mark and ask for Hawk-Eye?” said Nalbandian.
“So somebody from the umpires or ATP can explain this situation. I mean, what is this? This is a grand slam. I haven’t seen the video but I don’t think it was too late to call. John said: ‘Yeah, ask’.
“It’s ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpire. Eight-all, break point. Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment? What does the umpire need – press, the name, his picture [in the paper] tomorrow? Incredible.”
Nalbandian said he would not make an official protest but accused Nouni of being out of his depth in such a high-profile tournament.
“Absolutely. No doubt,” added the 2002 Wimbledon finalist. “Nothing happened in the match, and in that moment, he called an over-rule. I call Hawk-Eye, and he didn’t give it. I have never seen something like that. So the ATP have to check what they are doing for umpires. Do they practise? I don’t know.”
Isner’s victory in Melbourne set up a third-round meeting tomorrow with Spanish 18th seed Feliciano Lopez, who eased past Italian Flavio Cipolla.
HIGHLIGHTS | THURSDAY’S PLAY
N Djokovic (Ser)  v S Giraldo (Col)
L Hewitt (Aus) v A Roddick (USA) 
R Mello (Bra) v JW Tsonga (Fra) 
A Murray (GBR)  v E Roger-Vasselin (Fra)
J Hampton (USA) v M Sharapova (Rus) 
B Zahlavova (Cze) v S Williams (USA) 
V Zvonareva (Rus)  v L Hradecka (Cze)
C Suarez-Navarro (Spa) v P Kvitova (Cze)