By John Bombatch
We live in a day and age where everything in the professional sports world tends to bow to the replay booth.
Rather than an outfielder fessing up and admitting that they dropped the catch, or having a defensive back say the perceived interception actually did careen off the ground before he came up with it, we let the video replay of the game make up our minds for us.
And so when American tennis player Jack Sock used tennis’ version of replay to aid his opponent, his simple act of sportsmanship was truly refreshing.
During Tuesday’s early round action of the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth, Australia, a tune-up event for the Australian Open which will get under way in a couple weeks in Melbourne, veteran Lleyton Hewitt was trailing Sock 4-5 in the first set and had a 30-0 lead in the present game.
Hewitt’s first serve had been called out by the chair umpire and the Aussie turned back to the service line to toss up his second serve. But that’s when Sock yelled across the net and said:
“That was in, if you want to challenge it.”
Sock was in command of the game and had a shot at going up 40-love. But instead of using the missed call to his advantage, he admitted to Hewitt and everyone looking on that, yes, Hewitt’s serve had landed within the service box.
Somewhat stunned by the American’s honesty, Hewitt asked “Really?”
Hewitt then challenged the call, and the replay showed that the ball was, indeed, just in, hitting the far right service line in Sock’s half of the court.
Hewitt was awarded the point, which was won by Sock’s honesty.
With the way athletes at the high school and college ranks tend to emulate what the professionals do, wouldn’t it be nice to see a local kid show the same sportsmanship in the local sports arena?
While there’s rarely the use of a video replay down at the amateur level, there should still be honesty.
I played varsity tennis in high school, and I can still remember my coach telling us “When in doubt, call it out” in reference to close line calls.
I have seen a few instances at the high school level of tennis where a call would be argued and, rather than make the wrong call, both players would agree to replay the point. So honesty is out there.
It remains to be seen whether a basketball player, for instance, would step up and say “You know what? I know you think that loose ball went off of that guy, but I’m pretty sure that I tipped it out of bounds.”
The game official would probably fall over.
The player’s coach might be angry about losing the possession.
But the player would know that he/she did the right thing. That’s part of what sportsmanship is all about, isn’t it?
Sock is 23 years of age and has a career record of 75 wins and now 59 losses. He was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and resides in Kansas City, Kansas, when he’s not traveling the globe being all honest and stuff on a tennis court.
Hewitt won that game and went on to record a 7-5, 6-4 straight-set match win.
With his sporting honesty, Sock, currently ranked 26th in the world in men’s singles, has gained me as a fan.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.
You can find a replay of Sock’s sporting moment at: http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2016/1/6/10722764/jack-sock-tennis-sportsmanship-lleyton-hewitt-chair-umpire