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By Chris Oddo | Sunday May 15, 2016

Novak Djokovic didn’t win his argument with chair umpire Damian Steiner on Sunday and the world No. 1 wasn’t thrilled as he spoke about his 6-3, 6-3, loss in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final on Sunday.

More: Murray Wins Rome and Emerges as a Serious Roland Garros Contender

In his own recollection Djokovic came close to twisting an ankle several times during the match and as his frustration mounted he pleaded to Steiner one last time after the seventh game of the second set.

“I don’t want to play anymore,” Djokovic says, as he explained his case.

“The court is playable—we have to play,” replies Steiner.

It wasn’t the only not-quite-pleasant interaction the pair had on Sunday. Djokovic got off on the wrong foot with Steiner early in this match. After surrendering a break in the fourth game he was given a code violation for racquet abuse when he threw his racquet straight down onto the court and it bounced up into the first row of spectators behind the baseline on Court Centrale.

“I threw a racket, the racquet bounced over the fence, and I got warning instantly,” Djokovic said. “So the chair umpire was on fire today. He really wanted to show the authority to me and to everybody, so congratulations to him.”

Djokovic’s patience seemed to be progressively wearing thinner during what proved to be a very trying weekend in Rome. With pressure mounting as he prepares to bid for his first Roland Garros title next week in Paris, Djokovic struggled to keep his emotions in check at times. On Friday he got into a beef with umpire Carlos Bernardes about a questionable line call and on Saturday he was given a warning when he hit an errant return in the vicinity of a ballkid. The world No. 1 also hit himself on the ankle during his semifinal with Kei Nishikori on Saturday, drawing blood and requiring medical attention.

To make matters worse, the Serb didn’t finish his semifinal until after 11 PM on Saturday evening, while Murray was done and resting several hours earlier.

“I know that, you know, Novak had a tough few days,” Murray said after the match. “The match with Rafa, I didn't see it, but from what I heard it was a very tough match. And last night, as well. It's not easy playing late matches and having to come back the next day.”

Djokovic agrees. “I mean, the bigger the gap, the better it is for the player that finished earlier. You know, all these things have to be taken into consideration.”

But Djokovic’s biggest beef was about the condition of the court in Rome on Sunday. “I didn't see any reason why we couldn't stop the game for a little bit until we get the court in a proper condition to play,” Djokovic said. “You know, we played on a very, very heavy court because it was raining for an hour and it was very muddy behind the baseline. In three games I literally could have twisted my ankle two or three times. That's what I [told Steiner].”

He added: “But, you know, to me it's also ridiculous that the chair umpire, who doesn't wear tennis shoes and wears the casual shoes, comes out and just slides on the line and says, ‘Okay, the court is good or not.’”

Djokovic didn’t get the win on Sunday, nor did he gain the satisfaction of winning his argument with Steiner. But he came out of the match in good health and in good spirits about his game. It could have been better for the world No. 1, but it also could have been far worse.

“I don't feel that I'm doubtful or I'm shaken up by this loss,” he said. “Of course, you don't like to lose, but, you know, you've got to congratulate the better player that played well today, Andy, and he deserved to win and I move on to Paris knowing that I'm going to approach it hopefully healthy and refreshed and then giving it my all, as always, in Paris.”


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