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Shapovalov rages against umpires and Big Three after Nadal defeat: ‘There’s got to be some boundaries’

The young Canadian was angry and frustrated after his five-set defeat to the 20-time Grand Slam champion

Denis Shapovalov Canada’s Denis Shapovalov reacts during his quarter final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (Panoramic)

Australian Open 2022 | Draw Order of play 

Denis Shapovalov was calmer than he had been on court, but in his post-match press conference following his Australian Open quarter-final defeat to Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, the Canadian was still seething.

On court, he had had an unedifying run-in with umpire Carlos Bernardes over his failure to give the Spaniard a time violation. A few hours later, he was more articulate, but had not changed his view.

“I think I misspoke when I said he’s corrupt or whatever I said – it’s definitely emotional but I do stand by my side,” he told reporters. “I think it’s unfair how much Rafa is getting away with.

“I’m completely ready to play and the clock is ticking 3, 2, 1, clicking towards zero, and I’m looking at the ump, and obviously I’m going to speak up and say something. I’ve been ready to play for a minute and a half, and he tells me he’s not going to give him a code violation because I’m not ready to play. To me, it’s a big joke if somebody says that.

“And then after the fourth set, I mean, the guy goes — and for the same thing last year I wasn’t allowed to take a toilet break when I asked for a medical. He had already taken two medicals. He was getting medically evaluated, that’s what the ump said after the fourth set, getting medically evaluated, and after the evaluation the guy goes and takes a toilet break.

“It’s like, where is the line? Where are you going to step on the players and say, ‘Okay’? And again, I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he’s an unbelievable player. But, you know, there’s got to be some boundaries, some rules set. It’s just so frustrating as a player. You feel like you’re not just playing against the player; you’re playing against the umpires, you’re playing against so much more.

“It’s difficult. It was a big break after the fourth set for this reason, and the momentum just goes away. It’s much more difficult to play, I think. Again, not trying to say anything against Rafa. He’s a great player. I really respect all he’s done. But I just think it’s super difficult and super frustrating as an athlete to go up against all of this.”

Shapovalov – The Big Three are already so tough to beat

And Shapovalov added that Nadal – like the other two sides of the Big Three triumvirate – tended to be treated differently “100 per cent” by officials.

“Every other match that I have played, the pace has been so quick because the refs have been on the clock after every single point. This one, after the first two sets it was like an hour and a half just because he’s dragged out so much after every single point. He’s given so much time in between sets and all this. It’s just dragged out.

“For the same reason I wasn’t allowed to go to the washroom last year at the Australian Open because I had called a medical. I’m not arguing the fact that he had a medical or whatever it is. But how can you get evaluated medically and have a toilet break at the same break and just causing so much delay in the game?

“I mean, it’s just not balanced, you know.”

The 22-year-old also had some words to say to the fans, who he felt give too much support to the Big Three – who don’t need any more help.

“The fans are cheering in between first and second serves. Out of respect to all the players, like, it shouldn’t be happening. I feel like if you’re a tennis fan you should understand, like both players are giving an effort. I understand all they have done, I understand all the success. But, yeah, you’re out there trying your best. Why are you clapping in between first and second serves? It’s so unnecessary, you know.

“I just feel like it should just be more even, you know. Already on their own they’re so tough to beat and it’s so difficult but if you give them more advantages, more advantages, then it just becomes that much harder every time.

“Again, I’m not trying to take away anything they’ve done, of course they’re great champions, they’re the legends of the game. But at the end of the day when you step on the court it should be equal for everyone.”

Nadal – I wish him all the best

Nadal, for his part, refused to be drawn into an argument. After establishing that Shapovalov was not singling him out as the only person he thought received special treatment, the 20-time Grand Slam champion dismissed the suggestion – pointing out his own previous run-ins with Bernardes – and expressed sympathy for his young adversary.

“I really believe that on the court you don’t deserve better treatment than the others,” said Nadal, “and I really don’t want it and I don’t feel I have it.

“Without a doubt, even as everybody knows, that I have a huge respect for Carlos, and I think he’s a great umpire. Is not the case that he was always hard with me on court, no? No, no, I don’t think that’s the case.

“I really believe that sometimes the — it’s always in the mind that the top players get bigger advantages, no, and honestly on court is not true, no? That’s my feeling. I never feel that I had advantages on court, and I really believe that he’s wrong in that case, no?

“If I am not wrong, in the last couple of years we have a clock, we increase the measures to make the things more fair for everyone, no?

“I honestly feel sorry for him. I think he played a great match for a long time. Of course is tough to accept to lose a match like this, especially after I was feeling destroyed and probably he felt that, and then I was able to manage to win the match, no?

“I wish him all the very best. I think he will – he’s young, and everybody, I think we all make mistakes on our careers. I make a lot of mistakes too when I was younger, and probably he will understand later on after he thinks the proper way that probably he was not right today.”

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