It’s a Judgment Call as Umpire Returns to Chair

Times Staff Writer

Ever wonder what happened to the chair umpire at the center of the officiating controversy in the U.S. Open quarterfinal last year between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati?

Was she exiled to the Siberia of pro tennis?

Not exactly. Mariana Alves of Portugal was in the chair at the Australian Open today for a third-round match between Karolina Sprem of Croatia and Elena Likhovtseva of Russia, which Sprem won, 6-4, 6-3.

This is the first Grand Slam tournament since the explosive incident at the U.S. Open. In the first game of the third set of the Capriati-Williams match, Alves overruled on a passing shot by Williams that had been called good, and subsequent TV replays showed the ball had landed inside the line. There were several other questionable calls, which were not overruled.


The episode prompted an immediate outcry for instant replay in tennis. Alves was widely castigated by the media, Williams took to wearing a T-shirt with the words “The ball was in,” and U.S. Open officials called Williams to apologize for the mistake.

But Alves has been working matches in Melbourne, and tournament referee Peter Bellenger spoke about it. Bellenger said tournament officials did not ask Alves about the incident in New York, saying they knew her record.

“She was accepted to umpire here because, I mean she made a mistake in a match at the U.S. Open, but one mistake does not rule an umpire out,” Bellenger said in an interview. “Otherwise, we’d hardly have any umpires because we all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect.

“It was a controversy, but the mistake she made was early in the match. It was a controversy in the United States.”


Still, don’t expect to see Alves at any of Williams’ upcoming matches.

“Yeah, we probably would not at this point in time,” he said. “But I would suspect that she’s probably put Serena on her not-to-do list. All umpires have those lists and they are responsible for that.”

The Women’s Tennis Assn. was also in a let-bygones-be-bygones mood. A WTA spokesman said that Alves had “performed well” at several tournaments late last year and the “tour has a lot of confidence” in her officiating ability.


Lisa Raymond’s tournament ended abruptly. The 25th-seeded Raymond, who had lost two games in two rounds, withdrew today because of a left-side abdominal muscle tear, which she suffered in practice Friday before her doubles match. She had been scheduled to play No. 3-seeded Anastasia Myskina of Russia in the third round.

“I’m extremely disappointed because I couldn’t have asked to play better in my first two matches,” said Raymond, who hopes to return in time for the Indian Wells tournament in March. “I was really looking forward to playing Myskina, and of course it’s a real shame about having to retire in the doubles.”