Johannesburg - Throwing a racket in frustration on the court has almost become part of the stroke repertoire of many tenns players. But, whether intended or not, beware if the flying missile should strike an unsuspecting opponent.
And that is what happened in a bizare second-round match at the South African Open at Montecasino on Thursday when Sweden's Johan Brunstrom, who with Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands Antilles was seeded second in the doubles, hurled his racket in apparent frustration after missing a volley on match point, with the wayward object striking Rohan Bopanna on the other side of the net to cause an instant swelling on the Indian player's arm.
So, instead of progressing into the semi-finals as seemed imminent, Brunstrom and Rojer were disqualified against Bopana and Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi with the score 6-3 3-6 9-9 in a game that had extended into a deciding 10-point tiebreaker.
"It was an unfortunate ending to the match," said tournament supervisor Gerry Armstrong afterwards, "because it did not seem there was any intent on the part of Brunstrom to strike Bopanna when he threw his racket. The racket richocheted off the net and then struck the unsupecting Bopanna.
"But the ATP rules are quite clear on the matter," added Armstrong, "and whether intentional or not, a player who throws his racket and it then strikes an opponent is automatically disqualified."
The tournament supervisor said it was uncertain whether Bopanna would be fit to play in the semi-finals - "but at this stage it does not appear that serious," added Armstrong.
As for Brunstrom, when the media sought to interview "The Flying Swede" for his version of the unfortunate episode, ATP manager for marketing and media Stephen Duckitt said he was "not available," because the request was made too late after the match had been completed.
But someone then suggested it might have been due to the fear that words and not rackets might have been thrown around dangerously.
As for the moral of the story, Brunstrom and others might in future think twice about throwing a racket on the court - especially when it can cost an ATP title, the possibility of acquiring R180 000 in prize money and 250 ranking points.