By Martyn Herman
PARIS, June 1 Frenchman Benoit Paire accused umpire Enric Molina of double standards after he was docked a penalty point for receiving coaching at a crucial part of his third round defeat by Kei Nishikori at the French Open on Saturday.
The temperamental 24-year-old had already been warned for smashing a racket during the second set of his 6-3 6-7(3) 6-4 6-1 defeat on Suzanne Lenglen court when he was given a point penalty at 5-4 in the second set against the 13th seed.
Nishikori, the first man from Japan to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros since 1938, had just double-faulted to hand Paire a second set point when the umpire indicated that Paire had received signals from his coach, Lionel Zimbler.
"I think the chair umpire wanted to get a promotion," Paire told reporters. "Because at 5-4 advantage for me on set point, to put a warning for coaching, it's unbelievable.
"I think if Nadal or some good player do the same thing, for sure he doesn't put a warning."
Paire argued with Molina and then sarcastically applauded a rules official who had been summoned to the court as the crowd chanted and booed.
"I didn't even see the hand gesture being made," Paire said. "And then put on me a penalty point. He knows I got a warning.
"What I found it difficult to accept is that he didn't go beforehand to say, Lionel, calm down with the coaching. They go to the trainers and they say, 'be careful, calm down'.
"With a top-five player they would never do this.
"With the top five it's no problem, they can do what they like and they can extend the time they spend between each point. But if it's me I get a warning and 5-4. It's not acceptable."
International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules prohibit "any kind of coaching during a match, audible or visible, with communication of any kind between a player and coach construed as coaching", although regular women's tour events allow players to seek advice from coaches once per set at changeovers.
When play resumed Nishikori had to deal with a cacophony of booing as he held on to his serve for 5-5.
"It was a lucky moment, I have to say," Nishikori said. I think it was set point for him. It was lucky for me, but it's not my decision, you know - I don't know."
"It's not fair to give advice, but I also see my coach and he's not giving me advice, just (saying) relax or concentrate."
Paire, who mixed wretched errors with flashes of brilliance but always seemed to be fighting himself, recovered his composure to level the match in the tiebreak, roaring at the umpire and pumping his fists towards the crowd.
However, his 64 unforced errors meant Nishikori had to play only solid tennis to advance to the last 16.
"I found it difficult to concentrate, I found it difficult to remain in my train of thinking," Paire, who could be slapped with a fine of up to $20,000, said.
"Things started slipping away from me and I found it difficult then to come back from that."
(Editing by Clare Fallon and Stephen Wood)