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Saturday, January 21, 2012
More chair umpire controversy in Oz

By Ravi Ubha
ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- It hasn't been a good Australian Open for chair umpires.

First, Kader Nouni drew the ire of David Nalbandian when he didn't allow the Argentine to make a challenge deep in the fifth set of a second-round loss to John Isner. On Friday, Carlos Ramos seemed to err when he allowed play to continue as Bernard Tomic motioned to make a challenge in a rally against Alexandr Dolgopolov. Dolgopolov wasn't amused.

On Saturday, American Vania King unjustly lost a point in a crucial stage of her third-round encounter against Ana Ivanovic.

On that note, here are five takeaways from Day 6:

1. Chair umpire boo-boo

Down a set, King led 2-1 in the second on the Ivanovic serve and won the first three points. So 0-40. But after Ivanovic won the ensuing point, British chair umpire Alison Lang incorrectly announced the score as 15-30 instead of 15-40.

When Ivanovic also won the next three points, rather than it being advantage to the Serb, Lang called, "Game," even though Ivanovic had served the last point on the deuce side.

King was eventually eliminated 6-3, 6-4 on Hisense Arena.

"I thought I was up 40-0, and we're on the deuce side, and then it just didn't feel right," King said. "I got really confused."

King said she didn't think to question Lang.

"Sometimes I forget the score," she said. "I was confused but I had to move on because we went into the next game. I couldn't dwell on it too long, but if someone would have yelled at me I would have addressed it."

Kings said nerves had a role in playing on a show court.

"I hadn't played in a big stadium in a while," she said. "It wasn't her game or anything. I wasn't able to relax and focus on what I needed to do."

Her exit left Serena Williams as the lone American in either draw entering Saturday's night session.

2. Summing up the French

Returns for the six Frenchmen in the third round were mixed. They went 2-4.

Surprise, surprise, Gael Monfils was involved in the most exciting encounter.

Monfils raised expectations in 2012 when he downed Rafael Nadal in Doha, but the 14th seed squandered a 2-0 lead in the fifth set and lost 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 to Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin in a tense encounter. Based on Saturday's display, the hard-hitting Kukushkin won't be ranked outside the top 90 much longer.

Monfils suffered from a back injury and thought about retiring but pushed it to five after Kukushkin tightened up, trying to serve it out in the third. "For sure the crowds help me," said Monfils, a five-set loser to Juan Carlos Ferrero at the U.S. Open. "That's why I chose to keep going, because I could easily give up."

In the fifth, Monfils seemed to be annoyed that Kukushkin took his time to challenge a call, with both players later conversing with chair umpire James Keothavong. In the final game, a ball was thrown onto their court after Monfils served, adding to the drama.

Monfils hit two double faults in that last game.

"I was just poor," said Monfils, who made 55 unforced errors.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga predictably crushed Portuguese clay-court specialist Frederico Gil, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, while Richard Gasquet engineered a minor upset, ousting ninth-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

"I think I played very well with my serve and my backhand," Gasquet said in a news conference. "I try to change the rhythm on my strokes. It [worked] a lot."

With Gasquet looking sharp and his next foe, David Ferrer, perhaps a little vulnerable (he was taken to five sets in the second round), Gasquet shouldn't be underestimated.

Novak Djokovic usually eats up serve-and-volleyers, and the Serb routed birthday boy Nicolas Mahut, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Mahut later received a birthday cake in an interview room, which made him smile.

Exciting Japanese baseliner Kei Nishikori sent Julien Benneteau packing, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Brit Andy Murray handled veteran Michael Llodra, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0.

3. Return of the crying game

Players can go into a tailspin after tough losses. Isner freely admitted, for instance, that it took him a while to recover following a five-set loss to Marin Cilic last year at the Australian Open.

Vera Zvonareva
Emotions, once again, got the better of Vera Zvonareva, who becomes the second-highest seed to fall in Oz.

Perhaps two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva is still feeling the effects of a stinging defeat to Agnieszka Radwanska at October's year-end championships. Zvonareva blew three match points in Istanbul.

Zvonareva was thumped in the first round in Sydney and lost to fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (7), 6-1 on Saturday.

The tears returned for Zvonareva, too.

They fell as the seventh seed exited the court.

"I know I didn't play good tennis today but at least there are so many things I can improve upon, and that's what I'm going to do," a composed Zvonareva said. "There are a few things if I can make them better it will make a huge difference in my game. That's it, that's how I look at it."

What are those few things? Turns out they're more than a few.

"There are a lot of them, and I would like not to talk about them," she said.

Makarova likely now meets Williams.

4. Petra cruises

After Petra Kvitova was extended to three sets by Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round -- and almost trailing 3-0 in the third -- many wondered how she would reply against Maria Kirilenko.

She cruised.

Kvitova led 6-0, 1-0 before Kirilenko retired with a leg injury.

Even if fit, it's unlikely that Kirilenko would have tested Kvitova. She's unable to open up the court and create angles like Suarez Navarro, meaning not much is outside the Czech's hitting zone.

"From the last match I played, was really big [difference], and I'm really happy how I played today," Kvitova said. Kvitova tangles with Ivanovic in the fourth round.

5. Jie, look who's still alive

Who's the most in-form Chinese player?

Not Li Na, but two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Zheng Jie.

Zheng, packing a powerful baseline game despite her small stature, won her eighth straight match. She downed ninth seed Marion Bartoli -- who had her best season in 2011 -- 6-3, 6-3. Bartoli admitted Zheng was simply too good.

Zheng will be favored to advance to the quarterfinals since she confronts Sara Errani, even if the similarly diminutive Italian won their lone head-to-head encounter in New Haven, Conn. That was in the second half of 2010, when Zheng was suffering from a wrist injury.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.