In a second-round match of the 2019 Firenze Tennis Cup, the seventh seed Pedro Sousa played Italian wildcard, Enrico Dalla Valle. The chair umpire, Gianluca Moscarella, made some remarks to one of the players and the court staff that should not be left unpunished.
Sousa, a huge favorite before the match, went down 5-3 in the first set. The Portuguese fended off two set points and proceeded to take the next four games. During a toilet break, Moscarella decided to give him a pretty angry pep talk:
Moscarella can be heard asking (in a mixture of Spanish and Italian) Sousa to remain focused and win this match quickly. The umpire says that “this is a match that should be finished 6-1 6-1” and criticizes the Portuguese for wasting like 45 breakpoints (which is a weird statement considering Sousa took 4 out of 8 chances). Moscarella also complains about the heat, stating he is an old man and he can’t stand two hours in the heat. Therefore, he tells the seventh seed to finish the match ASAP as he’s the better player.
The incident is reminiscent of the famous Mohamed Lahyani and Nick Kyrgios “pep talk” at the US Open 2018. The Australian was down to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and only came back after the umpire motivated him by saying that he saw him play before and he’s better than this. Despite a huge outrage in the tennis community, the ITF failed to take any action. Lahyani only got a two-tournament suspension from the ATP and didn’t work at the China Open and the Shanghai Masters.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst of Moscarella’s behaviour in Florence.
Here, the Italian chair umpire talks to a ball girl. Moscarella tells her she’s “fantastic” and “very sexy”. These unacceptable remarks don’t end with that. At another opportunity, he asks her whether she feels the heat, emotionally or physically. Sousa went on to win the match but it didn’t go the way Moscarella had pictured it. He claimed the victory 6-4 in the decider after almost two and a half hours of play. The seventh seed finished the tournament as runner-up, losing to Marco Trungelliti.
(The comments were in Italian but are translated by Stefano Berlincioni on Twitter.)
And whilst the pep talk he gave Sousa was poor umpiring, his comments to the ball girl were way over the line. Indeed, the umpire behaved a manner that surely left the ball girl, a very young person whose safety on the court should be a big priority, feeling threatened and deeply uncomfortable. Serious action must be taken as a result. The heat is no a justification and someone who commits an offense like that shouldn’t work with kids and clearly should never umpire again.
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