Hello ATP? No punishment for David Ferrer for Hitting Ball at Baby? Maybe it was Baby’s Fault

Everyone just assumes that when David Ferrer hit the ball up at the crying baby in Miami, the baby was innocent in the whole thing. Hah! The ATP Tour’s investigation into the incident has uncovered video footage of the baby laughing at Ferrer before the tournament, watching tape and plotting out a way to bug him.

Here’s the video, watch to the end so you can see who the sneaky baby was looking at. So excited about his plan, the kid couldn’t stop from laughing.

OK, maybe not. That would have been perfect on April Fool’s Day.

But exactly what did happen to the ATP on this, anyway? Where is it? No fine, no suspension for a player hitting a ball at a baby?

Two things hit me over the Ferrer incident:

1)   It was a prime example of how the lust for web hits has lead to a new type of sensationalism in the modern media.

2)   Even so, Ferrer should have gotten a fine, and possibly a suspension.

Let’s start with the media. Ferrer served after the baby started crying. When the point was over, and he had lost, he took a ball and lobbed it into the stands in the general direction of the baby.

Are you still there? Because that description of the event is exactly what doesn’t go viral these days. This is what does:


It is almost impossible not to click on that. So the hits come flooding in. How many headlines were just like that? And what did you expect the first time you clicked on it? I thought someone with an angry and red face would pull a ball out of his pocket, pull back, and crush it at a baby.

I knew it couldn’t have been too big of a star in the U.S., because then the headline would have read: ROGER FEDERER IN CRAZED OUTBURST, CRUSHES BALL AT BABY! (CHECK VIDEO).

See, if it’s not a huge, huge star, then you just use the word “star’’ in hopes that readers might think it’s a huge, huge star. Remember this formula: Cheap tricks gets hits. Better if, technically, the headline is based in truth. I mean, he was angry. He is a star. That was a crying baby. . .

But Ferrer lobbed it up there.

OK, but now let’s look at what Ferrer really did do, and why he needs to have some consequences.

No, he didn’t violently hit the ball at a baby. But he was angry at the baby, and he did take some sort of action against the kid, or, more likely, the kid’s dad. You cannot take any negative physical action toward a customer.

There is an invisible line between fans and athletes that cannot be broken. When a fan jumped on the court at the U.S. Open a couple years ago and kissed Rafael Nadal, that was not violent, but could not be tolerated. We’ve seen all sorts of examples like that, going both directions. It’s important that fans stay in their place and players in theirs.

I know that players lob balls into the stands after matches. That is accepted by both sides, player and fan.

To me, what Ferrer did was like flipping off the baby, or father.

At the U.S. Clay Court Championship last week, I watched Paul Capdeville try to serve while a baby cried. Capdeville stopped, waited, got ready to serve again, and then the baby screamed again.

So Capdeville slumped his shoulders, rolled his eyes and seemed to be signaling the chair umpire to do something. Finally, the father picked up the baby and left.

That was normal behavior. A lot of tennis fans think babies don’t belong at matches at all. A friend of mine says babies and smoking should carry the same rules:

Not in public, please. As a father, I’m fully aware that kids can drive you crazy.

But come on, there is no reason a player can’t serve just because a baby is crying. It’s already unnatural enough that tennis asks a stadium full of adults to sit quietly. We’re talking about paying customers here who want to take their kids out for a day in the sun.

You don’t hit a ball up at them in anger.

All I know is that someone needed a timeout that day, and it wasn’t the baby.

So I do blame the modern media for blowing this thing up, but that’s no excuse for Ferrer. In fact, it just means today’s players have to be on their behavior even more.

You can’t have angry tennis stars hitting a ball at a crying baby. But you can’t have Ferrer lobbing one up there, either.

ATP officials need to wake up from their nap and take some action against Ferrer. Unless they think it’s the fault of a devious baby.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

7 responses to “Hello ATP? No punishment for David Ferrer for Hitting Ball at Baby? Maybe it was Baby’s Fault

  • Kyle Hoegh

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with what Ferrer did. Whether it was the Paul Capdeville or David Ferrer situation, the purpose was the same: They wanted to let the parent of the child (not the baby) and umpire to know that a crying baby was loud enough to affect their concentration. Whether it is rolling your eyes and waiting, or lobbing a ball in their direction doesn’t matter to me. Nobody was put in harms way, and IMO the action shouldn’t have been interpreted by the parent as anything other than a way of communication (and not derogatory like getting flicked the bird). I think that if a fine or suspension was handed out for that, it would be overreacting.

  • ziggi

    Parents should keep their small babies far away from any sportscourt. They don`t belong there! In fact it tends childabuse to let a baby sizzle in the sun for some hours.

  • roGER

    Anyone stupid and selfish enough to take a baby to a tennis match deserves anything he or she gets.

    Like it or not, it’s a convention that in tennis matches that during play the crowd shut the fuck up.

    I blame the stewards and officials for:

    a) Not allowing a spectator with a baby into the stadium in the first place.

    b) Assuming somehow the baby was smuggled in, not suspending play until said baby is removed along with parent/guardian/whomever is responsible for the baby.

    If you want to make noise during play, there are plenty of other sports where the convention is that the crowd can scream and yell and whatever during play.

    The fact that a spectator has paid money for a ticket is irrelevant. You break the rules, you get thrown out. Simple.

  • Kyle Hoegh

    I don’t have a problem with the baby being there. It’s like bringing a baby to church. You have to be mindful of taking them out if they are acting up. Ferrer was just sending a message that the parent needs to get the baby out of there.

  • andrei

    it’s not the baby’s fault. i mean it’s not like the baby cried intentionally. I have read some interesting facts about David Ferrer here :

  • Yumna

    David Ferrer is one of my fav players. He was very stressed in that match. He never ment any harm to the baby.

  • Kate

    Why have you made a huge deal about this? I was at that match.

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