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Ugly scenes marred the end of Andrey Rublev’s semifinal match against Alexander Bublik, which saw the No. 2 seed defaulted for allegedly cursing at a line judge—and reignited the discussion about a video review system in tennis.

Trailing 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 5-6 and with the match seemingly headed into a deciding tiebreak, Rublev vented his frustration by screaming in the face of a linesperson, appearing upset that a Bublik shot on the baseline had not been called out.

According to’s David Kane, a Russian-speaking official alerted chair umpire Miriam Bley and tournament supervisor Roland Herfel that Rublev had yelled an obscenity in Russian at the linesman. Herfel and the official then confronted Rublev, who not only denied the accusation but also insisted he hadn’t been speaking Russian when the incident occurred.

Despite Rublev’s pleas, the supervisor sided with the official and defaulted the player immediately, sending Bublik to the final. The incident left both players and viewers at home in disbelief, and it once again brought up a familiar debate: Why does professional tennis not use a video review system, like soccer’s video assistant referee (VAR)? There’s still no way for tennis players to challenge a situation like Rublev’s, not to mention foot faults, double bounces or let cords.

WATCH: The moment Andrey Rublev was defaulted from his semifinal in Dubai, sending Alexander Bublik into the final ⤵️


Bublik, who will meet Ugo Humbert in the final, seemed just as shocked by Rublev’s disqualification as the rest of the crowd. After the match, the Kazakh player said he sympathized with his opponent and called the situation “proof” that tennis officials manually calling lines should be a thing of the past.

“We have this proof every week that when the tournament is with electronic line calling, we don’t have these troubles,” he said in his post-match press conference. “Players are not (going) crazy, it’s our passion. We live for this. We grew up dreaming to play in these stadiums, then some guy who is working for three years as a line judge (is) staying there deciding something… Then you come up to the situation like this.

“Is it the fault of Andrey? Maybe. Is it the fault of the umpire? Maybe… This is what we need to understand: We cannot take players away, but we can easily take away the umpires. And that would solve many issues.”

Coach Brad Gilbert seemed to agree. He also questioned why the Dubai tournament, an ATP 500-level event, wasn’t using live electronic line calling, and echoed calls for a VAR-style video review system at every tournament from ATP 250 and above, stating “the technology is there.” Hawk-Eye Live, tennis’ main live electronic line calling system, was first introduced at the ATP NextGen Finals in 2018 and was brought to the pro tour in 2020—but not all tournaments use it.

“Every ATP Tour (and) WTA tournament should be mandatory now to have electronic line calling, and for incidentals,” he wrote on X. “So frustrating to not have it now, so much easier for players to (accept) calls move on.”

It’s a sentiment that was echoed by players on social media following Rublev’s disqualification, with world No. 24 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina calling the situation “shameful” and “unfair”.

“Very unfair that they disqualify Rublev without first ensuring that what the line judge understood is correct,” wrote Davidovich Fokina. “That rule should be reviewed and changed. Shameful. We need VAR in tennis.”

“What he did wasn't right, but taking away all the prize money and points without any proof of what the line judge said to the referee was correct seems unfair,” he added.


WTA No. 12 Daria Kasatkina, who has been outspoken about many tennis issues on her YouTube channel What The Vlog, also took to X to express her shock at the supervisor’s decision.

“So you can just default a player, take his points and money away, without even checking a video replay???” Kasatkina wrote. “What a joke, another confirmation we need a VAR in tennis and electronic line calling on all tournaments.”

Like Davidovich Fokina, Kasatkina too went on to clarify that the controversy didn’t excuse Rublev’s on-court behavior.

“I didn’t said that he is right,” she said. “What I’m saying is that the supervisor has to have a 100% confirmation in front of his eyes before making such a decision.”

After the match, the official reason for Rublev’s default was listed by the referee’s office as “verbal abuse”—not “unsportsmanlike conduct” like umpire Bley announced at the end of the match—which only added to the confusion.


According to Section VIII (“The Code”) of the ATP’s Official Rulebook, verbal abuse is defined as "any statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or any other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive.”

That would apply if Rublev did call the line umpire a “f*cking moron” in Russian, as the on-court official claimed—but Rublev flatly denied doing so, and broadcast replays of the incident aren’t clear on what was actually said either.

It’s that uncertainty that seemed to be what players took the biggest issue with, because it’s far from the first time that languages have caused on-court confusion. Remember when Svetlana Kuznetsova, a Russian player who trained in Spain and worked with Spanish coaches, was famously penalized for complaining about “la pista” (Spanish for “the court”) because Croatian umpire Marija Cicak thought she was actually cursing in Croatian?

Let's be clear, Rublev's aggressive behavior toward the line umpire was unacceptable. But it wasn't his behavior that got him defaulted: According to the referee, Rublev was penalized for "verbal abuse"—an accusation the player has emphatically denied.

Let's be clear, Rublev's aggressive behavior toward the line umpire was unacceptable. But it wasn't his behavior that got him defaulted: According to the referee, Rublev was penalized for "verbal abuse"—an accusation the player has emphatically denied. 

Players like Kasatkina say this never stopped being an issue on the increasingly global tennis tour, which has only compounded the frustration surrounding Rublev’s disqualification.

“(Once) I paid a huge fine for something I didn’t say just because the linesman thought she understood what I’m saying,” Kasatkina wrote in a different tweet. “So no, they cannot always be trusted.”

What was clear is that Rublev’s behavior toward the line umpire was completely unacceptable. But if it was the verbal abuse, and not the behavior, that Rublev was defaulted over, then the clip deserved at least a second look. It’s not like there’s any shortage of Russian and English speakers in Dubai who would be able to clarify what was actually said. Rublev instead ends the week foreiting all his prize money and ranking points from Dubai, and will drop out of the ATP's Top 5 come Monday.

The incident understandably left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth—but if tennis had a VAR-style video replay system, at least the confusion and ambiguity surrounding the incident would be cleared up.