Amarissa Toth claims it was ‘never her intention to disrespect’ Zhang Shaui, as the Hungarian tennis player apologies for her controversial actions that led to her opponent’s panic attack – Maxsports
May 20, 2024

Maxsports

All Sports To The Max

Amarissa Toth claims it was ‘never her intention to disrespect’ Zhang Shaui, as the Hungarian tennis player apologies for her controversial actions that led to her opponent’s panic attack

Hungarian tennis player Amarissa Toth has issued a half-hearted apology for celebrating her win against her veteran opponent Zhang Shui at the Budapest Open as the Chinese star left the court in tears. 

But the 20-year-old made no mention of her shameless decision to erase a ball mark on the clay court following a disputed line call – a move that sparked Shuai’s reported panic attack and retirement from the match.

Shuai, a former world No.22, had hit a crosscourt forehand that appeared to land on the line but was called out by the line judge, leaving Shuai incensed by the decision. 

Toth appeared to be laughing at Shuai as she was mocked and jeered by the Hungarian’s home crowd for arguing with the umpire for several minutes over the line call. 

And moments later, the Hungarian player walked up to the mark left by the ball that was called out and used her shoe to erase it, as Shuai screamed, ‘Wait, wait, wait, keep the mark! What are you doing? Why would you do that?’

But Toth failed to mention this ‘disgusting’ unsporting behaviour during her recorded apology – and instead said she was ‘sorry’ for celebrating in front of a cheering crowd as a tearful Shuai retired from the game and left the court.

Amarissa Toth has issued an apology for her controversial actions against China's Zhang Shuai

Amarissa Toth has issued an apology for her controversial actions against China’s Zhang Shuai

Zhang Shuai  (pictured) was left in tears and unable to continue at the Budapest Open after a series of controversial acts from Toth

Zhang Shuai  (pictured) was left in tears and unable to continue at the Budapest Open after a series of controversial acts from Toth

Shuai had walked up to Toth and shaken her hand as she retired from the match – and seconds later the 20-year-old player raised her arms up while smiling up to the cheering crowd. She was seen raising her racket in the air while continuing to smile. 

In a video statement released following her defeat to Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl, Toth said in a quiet voice: ‘I did not think that my first ever WTA main draw success of my career would cause such a storm. 

‘I am extremely sorry for what happened, I respect Zhang Shuai as a person and just as much as an athlete. It was never my intention to disrespect, to upset or to hurt anybody, let alone Zhang Shuai.

‘I do realise I shouldn’t have celebrated the way I celebrated after the match and I’m sorry for that but I got caught up in my emotions, by the heat of the match, and I got caught up in the moment.’

Toth continued: ‘I focused on tennis, I didn’t want to win like that. I hope that in the future I have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Zhang Shaui and tell her how badly I feel that our match ended this way.’

Toth failed to mention how she had erased a ball mark on the clay court following the disputed line call. Shuai had become frustrated after a line judge called a crosscourt forehand that had appeared to land on the line out. 

The Chinese player had argued with the umpire about the controversial line call for several minutes while she was mocked and jeered at by the crowd. Toth appeared to be laughing at the player as she became more frustrated.

The match continued for another point before the disagreement over the disputed call – which commentators also believed was wrong – continued and the tournament supervisor was brought onto the court.

But Toth walked up to the mark left by the ball that was called out and used her shoe to erase it. Shuai yelled from her side of the net, ‘Wait, wait, wait, keep the mark! What are you doing? Why would you do that?’ 

Toth (pictured) could be seen walking towards the contested ball marking and scuffing it out with her foot before officials could take a closer look

Toth (pictured) could be seen walking towards the contested ball marking and scuffing it out with her foot before officials could take a closer look

Shuai received an outpouring of support from ex-players after a controversial end to the match

Shuai received an outpouring of support from ex-players after a controversial end to the match

Toth had initially denied that she had behaved badly in her match with Zhang in the prior round

Toth had initially denied that she had behaved badly in her match with Zhang in the prior round

Toth responded by saying: ‘Because you’re making problems, that’s why.’

Shuai went on to win the game, but she looked visibly stressed during the changeover. 

A physio was called to check on her before the world number 28 opted to retire while trailing 6-5 in the opening set of their match in Budapest.

TV commentators explained that Zhang was crying a ‘flood of tears’, with one calling the episode a ‘panic attack’.

The 34-year-old then quickly shaking hands with the umpire and Toth as she made her premature exit, before pointing at sections of the crowd who had booed her.

Toth immediately celebrated her highly controversial victory in the round of 32, throwing both hands into the air to the applause of her fans. 

Zhang later took to social media to complain about the call and thanked those who supported her.

‘All efforts on practice was wrong, because when you wanted hitting closer to the line, even touched the line still OUT,’ Zhang wrote.

Toth’s conduct during the match was slammed by fans and players as ‘shameful’ and a ‘new low for sportsmanship’.

Kateryna Baindl sent a message of support to  Zhang after beating Toth in the round of 16

Kateryna Baindl sent a message of support to  Zhang after beating Toth in the round of 16

The Hungarian had initially denied that her behaviour was inappropriate, but has since opted to apologise – though half-heartedly. 

Baindl, who beat Toth to advance to the quarter-finals, had addressed the controversy during her on-court interview on Thursday.

‘I just want to say I hope they can stay fair and Shuai Zhang feels better and hopefully she it getting better and we will soon see her back,’ Baindl said.

‘She is an unbelievable player, very respectful and a great person.

‘There is a lot to learn from her.

‘I guess we should all stay respectful to each other, it does not matter what.’

Toth’s conduct during the match was slammed by fans and players as ‘shameful’ and a ‘new low for sportsmanship’.

Aussie star Ellen Perez took to social media to declare her disgust over the ordeal.

‘Well that’s a quick way to lose respect from your peers. I’m actually shook by the level of disrespect from this girl,’ Perez wrote.

‘If I see this girl tomorrow I will tell her how disgusted I am.’

Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic also rallied around Shuai, posting on Twitter: ‘Absolutely disgusting behaviour. Shuai is a better person than a lot of us for shaking the ref and that girl’s hand. But then again it’s Shuai we are talking about, of course she did’.

Aussie Daria Saville didn’t hold back, either, posting: ‘Zero respect for this Toth girl. ZERO! I am so so so mad. I feel so bad for Shuai. Toth ‘won’ this point and ‘won’ this match but her reputation is ruined.’

Who were the players involved? 

Zhang Shuai

Shuai, 34, who has spent over a decade in the sport, is a two-time major champion in women’s doubles after claiming victory at the Australian Open in 2019 and the US Open two years later. Both of those double triumphs came alongside Australian partner Samantha Stosur.

The Chinese star also reached the Wimbledon final in 2022 with Belgium’s Elise Mertens, only to suffer defeat against Alexa Guarachi and Andreja Klepac.

She has a career-high doubles ranking of world No 2 and has picked up 12 titles on the WTA tour.

As a single, Shuai has reached two major quarter-finals at the Australian Open in 2016 and Wimbledon three years later. She is one of only five Chinese tennis players in history to make it to this stage of a Grand Slam and has also been ranked as high as No 22 in the world.

Amarissa Toth 

Toth, 20, is only a few years into her professional career after making her WTA Tour main-draw debut at the Budapest Grand Prix in 2021.

She has a career-high ranking of 534 in singles and 264 in doubles, and has claimed 12 ITF Circuit finals titles – 11 of them coming in doubles.

The Hungarian youngster’s highest rank win so far came in the 2022 Slovak Open, where she got the better of Germany’s Eva Lys in the first round.