Shuai Zhang - Wimbledon 2023

WTA player calls for ‘fairness’ after beating controversial Hungarian newcomer

The week after a Grand Slam is usually very quiet, however the WTA tournament in Budapest has been in the eye of a storm after an incident between Zhang Shuai and Hungarian newcomer Amarissa Kiara Toth.

Zhang Shuai is a tour veteran, having turned professional 20 years ago, and is a notoriously very popular player on the WTA tour amongst both the fans and players.

Her opponent Toth could not have been any different, having only been born the year Zhang turned professional and the first round match in Budapest was her first in a WTA main draw.

Zhang was on a 12-match losing streak in singles heading into the match, and her match against the No.548 was seen as a good opportunity for her to turn things round.

However things went drastically wrong, when at 5-5 15-15 in the first set Zhang hit a crosscourt forehand that looked to be on the line was called out by the line judge and umpire.

Zhang was very unhappy with the decision and pleaded with the umpire to review the ball mark on the clay that appeared to support her decision, but the umpire did not agree.

Matters took to another level when Zhang was continuing to debate the decision with the umpire and Toth decided to remove the ball mark with her foot.

“Why did you do that?” questioned Zhang, to which the Hungarian wildcard responded, “You’re making problems.”

Toth went onto break to go up 6-5, and Zhang was visibly distressed at the change of ends causing her to have to retire from the match.

After shaking Toth’s hand and informing her of the decision to retire, the Hungarian proceeded to celebrate with the support of her home crowd.

Toth’s actions have not been received well by other players on the WTA tour, including the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sakkari, Sloane Stephens, Ons Jabeur, Daria Kasatkina and many others.

Some of the strongest opinions on social media came from Azarenka, who claimed that Toth showed “another level of unsportsmanlike conduct” and Sakkari, who argued that the Hungarian “should be banned from the tour”.

Zhang also made some comments on social media that included thanking those for supporting her, “All efforts on practice was wrong , because when you wanted hitting closer to the line , even touched the line still OUT ….. I love you guys and all girls who supporting me and standing my side.”


Toth was subsequently beaten in her second round match by Kateryna Baindl, who had some words of support for Zhang in her post-match interview.

“I just want to say I hope they [the crowd] can stay fair and Shuai Zhang feels better and hopefully she is getting better and we will soon see her back,” said Baindl.

The Ukrainian added, “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.”

Initially Toth was not remorseful for her actions, “I don’t understand why she made such a fuss out of it, that she wanted to overrule the judge’s decision. I don’t understand why she didn’t accept it, but she made trouble for herself.”

But, following her defeat to Baindl an apology video was posted to the tournament’s Instagram, “I’m extremely sorry for what happened.”

Toth continued, “I respect Zhang Shuai as a person and just as much as an athlete. I do realise I shouldn’t have celebrated the way I celebrated after the match and I am sorry for that, but I got caught up by my emotions, by the heat of the match and I got caught up by the moment.

“I hope that in the future I will have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Zhang Shuai and tell her how badly I feel that our match ended this way.”

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.