Perhaps you saw it. Serving at set point, the Chinese player Li Na – or is it Na Li? – served an ace, on to the side line. It was called out. Li Na looked to the umpire for confirmation of this tight call, got the nod, accepted it, and went on to lose the point, the game, set and match. Bad decision: we now know that Hawkeye would have shown that the ball was in. She won the set, fair and square. No question.
BBC commentators and the entire watching world said: ‘go on, woman, challenge the call! Why not challenge? That looked in. What have you got to lose?’ Li Na’s action, or failure to act, is indeed hard to explain. Perhaps there is some deep-seated cultural explanation for her instinctive reluctance to challenge authority. Should she be penalised for that?
On BBC TV John McEnroe was incredulous – ‘that was in! can we see the replay? why not show us the replay?’ BBC did not show the replay, although of course it easily could have. Clearly McEnroe saw the replay off-air and had his suspicions confirmed. Eventually, someone shut him up. It is not policy to show subversive replays of this kind. Why not?
More surprising still, there is no mention of the missing ace on BBC Sport’s live internet feed describing the game in question:
“Set point Li, though… she sprints to the net, stoops to her shoelaces to shovel a volley from her toes but Radwanska is ready to pounce and beats her rival with a sizzling forehand. Bravo! Second set point… Li the aggressor but she overhits a forehand. Third set point… (Sir Terry must be enjoying this…) Li with the overhead but a touch of the razzle-dazzle from Radwanska – a backhand down the line and we’re back to deuce. A fourth set point disappears… Whoa! A beautiful forehand return for break point… the duo lunge from side to side and Li crumbles, plonking a forehand wide. What a game!”
Yes, what a game. But why no mention of the ace? Is this good journalism?
The argument that looking at Hawkeye for every close call would take too long, no longer holds up. Li Na’s serve was in. Everyone that mattered had that information instantaneously, so why not award her the point?