Umpire out for faulty call during V. Williams' match

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WIMBLEDON, England -- Ted Watts, the disgraced British umpire who committed the egregious scoring error in the Venus Williams-Karolina Sprem match Thursday, won't work another match during Wimbledon.

"I have now discussed the incident with the chair umpire concerned," said tournament referee Alan Mills yesterday, "and we have agreed it will be in the best interests of both parties if he takes no further part in the event."

The umpires' office declined to comment.

Watts, who has left a trail of controversy from Amelia Island, Fla., to Wimbledon, mistakenly gave Sprem a point she didn't earn in the final tiebreaker of Thursday's 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) second-round upset of Williams, the 2000 and '01 Wimbledon champ.

The error made it 2-2 in the tiebreaker. Williams then built a 6-3 edge, but she lost the next five points for her earliest loss at the All England Club since her 1997 debut.

Neither player brought the mistake to his attention. Nor did any linesman on the court go to the chair to advise Watts of his gaffe.

Sprem said Thursday she was confused but was focusing on the match.

"I'd like to think he didn't do it on purpose," Williams said. "I don't think one call makes a match."

Williams led the tiebreaker 2-1 when Sprem hit a first serve ruled wide by the line judge, who put her arm out and shouted, "Fault!" Williams casually hit the ball over the net, and Sprem smacked a backhand into the open court. Williams stood still at the baseline, figuring it was time for a second serve.

But Watts announced the score as 2-2, the sort of mistake that occurs every so often but generally is noticed right away by one of the players or another on-court official.

With the players apparently unaware Sprem received a point she shouldn't have, they lined up again in the same positions for what both thought was a second serve. Indeed, Sprem put a safe offering in, and Williams laced a backhand return winner. That should have made it 3-1 for Williams, but Watts called it 3-2.

"Unfortunately, the way it happened, Venus didn't query it at the time," Mills said. "They played point after point afterward, and the result, I'm afraid, stands as is."

This incident hasn't been the first to embarrass Watts.

In 2002, in a first-round match at Amelia Island, Watts was in the chair for the Anne Kremer-Jennifer Hopkins match in which the groundskeeper for the clay courts had mistakenly laid the lines for the service boxes three feet short.

After Hopkins and Kremer combined for 29 double faults, they complained to the WTA Tour supervisor that the lines might be too short. They were.

Kremer asked in mid-match for someone to measure the boxes. She said Watts told her, 'It's OK, play on.' "

Yesterday, Venus' sister, top seed and defending champion Serena Williams, became annoyed at a succession of questions about how Venus had handled the controversy after Serena's 6-0, 6-4 win over 135th-ranked Stephanie Foretz of France.

After saying that she would never have accepted a point she hadn't earned -- "I'm an honest individual. So if I were in that situation I know I would make the right choice," Williams said at one point and "I think as a competitor and as a professional you should be able to distinguish right and wrong. But I'm not here to talk about Venus," she said at another point -- Serena put an end to the interrogation.

Most other players said that while they thought Venus handled the situation gracefully, they, like Serena Williams, questioned Sprem's silence when she was awarded the point.

"I'd have a real issue just pretending like nothing was wrong and taking the point," Andy Roddick said.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Wire services contributed to this article.

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