July 17, 2017: The day Anastasia Rodionova became only the second woman in WTA history to be defaulted
Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day in 2007, Anastasia Rodionova joined Irina Spirlea in the defaulters club on the WTA tour
What exactly happened on that day?
On this day, July 17, in 2007, in the first round of Cincinnati, Anastasia Rodionova became only the second player in the history of the WTA tour to be defaulted from a match. The referee decided to default her without warning after she aimed an angry shot at noisy front-row supporters while she was down 1-0 in the third set of her match against Angelique Kerber. The German was handed the victory, 4-6, 6–4, 1-0.
The players: Anastasia Rodionova and Angelique Kerber
- Anastasia Rodionova: the top 100 pro from Australia
Anastasia Rodionova, from Russia, was born in 1982. She turned pro in 1997, but entered the top 100 for the first time only in 2006, a season during which she obtained her best Grand Slam result, reaching the third round of the US Open. In July 2007, Rodionova was ranked No 78 on the WTA Tour, close to her highest-career ranking of No 64 reached just a few months earlier. She had never played a singles final on the tour, but had won two doubles titles, the first in 2005 in Quebec and the second in 2007 in Estoril. Anastasia’s young sister, Arina, who was 18 at the time, also played professionally and was ranked No 350 at the time.
- Angelique Kerber: the German southpaw on the rise
In July 2007, Angelique Kerber was 19 years old. She was ranked No 73 in the world, which was the highest ranking she had reached so far in her young career. The German left-hander with Polish roots was far away from being the top player she would become several years later. She had played in only two Grand Slam main draws, without winning a single match. Her best tour result in 2007 was a quarter-final reached at s’-Hertogenbosch, where she lost to Anna Chakvetadze (6-2, 6-2).
The place: The Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati
The Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati had been hosting a prestigious men’s tennis event continuously since 1899. However, the women’s tournament had been held only sporadically until it was made a part of the Western and Southern Open in 2004 and it was decided it would take place every year along with the men’s tournament.
The facts: Anastasia Rodionova gets defaulted without a warning
The first-round match between Rodionova and Kerber did not draw any particular attention until things took an ugly turn at the start of the final set. Rodionova, who had taken the first set 6-4, had already complained to the chair umpire about some fans seated in the front row, cheering for her opponent and being noisy during points. When she lost the second set, 6-4, her anger went to the next level. After she lost the first game of the decider, she aimed a ball in frustration in the direction of the three annoying spectators. The ball only hit halfway up the wall, but it was enough to give them a good scare, and it was enough for the umpire to elect to default Rodionova.
While the players were changing sides, the chair umpire, Yvette Khan, called the referee, William Coffey. When he heard the facts, the referee decided that Rodionova would be defaulted without a warning for such an unsportsmanlike and dangerous display of anger. The Russian, who probably thought she was going to be awarded a warning, could not believe her ears. During her press conference, with teary eyes, she explained her surprise: “I’m shocked,” she said. “I still don’t understand why they defaulted me. I’m really upset. I’ve never seen in my life anyone defaulted in this situation. I had no warning. I didn’t hit the ball at anybody. I didn’t swear at anybody. I didn’t throw my racket.”
Although Rodionova had claimed on court that she had not specifically aimed at a particular group of fans, she partly admitted it in her statements during the press conference. Rodionova said that she hit the ball in the middle of the wall, saying she chose “the safest place to hit it.”
She then added: “If you’re afraid of the ball, don’t sit in the front row.”
Rodionova was only the second player in WTA history to lose a match like this. In 1996, Irina Spirlea had been defaulted in Palermo for swearing at officials.
What next? Rodionova reached the top-15 in doubles while Kerber would become a multiple Grand Slam winner and a world No 1
After this awkward win, Kerber would lose in the next round against Akiko Morigami (6-2, 6-2). It would take Kerber five years to break into the top 10 in 2012. Kerber would eventually become the world No 1 in September 2016 after claiming two Grand Slam titles in the same year: the Australian Open and the US Open. She would then lift a third major trophy at Wimbledon in 2018.
Anastasia Rodionova would never reach a WTA singles final, reaching her highest ranking as world No 62 in 2010. In doubles, she would claim as many as 11 titles and become world No 15. She was married at the end of 2018 and has not competed on the tour since early 2019.