By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - American number one Mardy Fish crashed out of the Australian Open on Wednesday, beaten 7-6 6-3 7-6 by Alejandro Falla in the second round.
Afterwards, eighth seed Fish questioned whether the Colombian had "abused" the rules by calling out the trainer as a tactical ploy during a tense third set.
Fish had to battle back just to force a tiebreak in the third set on court three but lost it 8-6 to fall at the second hurdle for the second year in a row at Melbourne Park.
Lefthander Falla summoned up a brilliant lob after a 30-stroke rally to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak and survived some late nerves to claim victory when Fish blasted a forehand wide.
Falla called the trainer out twice at changeovers in the third set as he appeared to be struggling with cramp, prompting Fish to ask the umpire and tournament referee for clarification of the rules.
"Third set obviously pretty important knowing that he's struggling, I guess. Maybe not. Maybe that was a ploy. I don't know," said the 30-year-old.
"Didn't seem like he was having too much trouble during the point. So it was a good tactic on his part.
"When you think someone is cramping or ailing physically, you sort of change your game a tiny bit," he added.
"I think it had a significant bearing on the third set, for sure."
Fish said he did not think players were allowed to call out the trainer for cramps, adding that as the modern game was so physically draining it was something that some players would exploit.
"You're going to have guys that are going to abuse that a lot," he said. "I thought he was having some physical issues. But then in between on every point he was totally fine."
Falla will meet Germany's Phillip Kohlschreiber in the third round.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)