After controversial call, and a misunderstood preposition, Djokovic beats Andy Murray

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If you are not familiar with tennis rules: Djokovic’s racquet crossed the net as he hit the ball for an easy point, a violation that the chair umpire missed, allowing Djokovic to keep the 0-15 lead. Murray didn’t seem that upset initially, but after the shot was shown on the big screen at the Sony Open he started to question the call. Murray initially approached Djokovic about the call, with Novak admitting he hit the ball with his racquet over the net, but Damien Steiner, the chair umpire, said that the ball was actually hit on Djokovic’s side, with his racquet following through over the net (which is legal). 

Watch the video below and see for yourself…


More than just tennis rules, the real problem was the preposition “over“. Footage from the broadcasters shows Murray saying: “You’re having a laugh, man, you can see it on the replay! Even Novak said his racket was over the net!” To which Steiner replied: “Over the net is fine” — in other words, the racket can cross the line before or after contact — “but you cannot hit the ball on the other side.” Steiner also explained that he thought Djokovic had hit the ball “on top of the net” rather than on the far side. 



Language barrier: ambiguity

When Murray says “over the net” he clearly means the ball was hit on the other side of the net.

The umpire, an Argertine, understands “over” as “above”, or the opposite of “below”, and it makes total sense because in order to get the ball to the other side of the court a player must hit it “over” the net.

Djokovic, from Serbia, admits he did hit the ball “over” the net, but this is what he meant: It might be my mistake as well,” Djokovic told reporters. “I think I crossed the net with the racket and won the point. I didn’t touch the net. I really had a bad experience with that last year at French Open against Rafa (Nadal) – I touched the net and lost the point. Maybe the rule is you’re not allowed to pass on his side with the racket. I’m not sure. You tell me.”

This is the definition of “over” according to the Webster dictionary:


adverb \ˈō-vər\

: in an upward and forward direction across something

: downward from an upright position

: downward to a flat or horizontal position

Full Definition of OVER


a :  across a barrier or intervening space; especially :  across the goal line in football

b :  forward beyond an edge or brink and often down<wandered too near the cliff and fell over>

c :  across the brim <soup boiled over>

d :  so as to bring the underside up <turned his cards over>

e :  from a vertical to a prone or inclined position <knocked the lamp over>

f :  from one person or side to another <hand it over>

g :  across <got his point over>

h :  to one’s home <invite some friends over>

i :  on the other side of an intervening space <the next townover>

j :  to agreement or concord <won them over>



a (1) :  beyond some quantity, limit, or norm often by a specified amount or to a specified degree <show ran a minuteover(2) :  in an excessive manner :  inordinately

b :  till a later time (as the next day) :  overnight <stay over><sleep over>



a :  above

b :  so as to cover the whole surface <windows boardedover>



—used on a two-way radio circuit to indicate that a message is complete and a reply is expected



a :  through <read it over>; also :  in an intensive or comprehensive manner

b :  once more :  again <do it over>

 See over defined for English-language learners »

See over defined for kids »

Examples of OVER

  1.       The wall’s too high for us to climb over.
  2.       We came to a stream and jumped over.
  3.       She leaned over and kissed him.
  4.       She knocked over the lamp.
  5.       A couple of trees fell over during the storm.
  6.       The baby rolled over onto his stomach.

Origin of OVER

Middle English, adverb & preposition, from Old English ofer;akin to Old High German ubar (preposition) above, beyond, over, Latin super, Greek hyper

First Known Use: before 12th century

Related to OVER

Synonyms: across, athwart, through

Antonyms: nevermore


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