Rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov was still smarting after his Australian Open defeat to Rafael Nadal; accusing officials of allowing the Spaniard to break the rules while others are punished.
Nadal held off a fightback from the spirited Shapovalov in a five-set epic in the Melbourne heat on Tuesday; booking his spot in the semifinals as the Spanish veteran pursues a record 21st Grand Slam title; in the absence of the deported Novak Djokovic.
Shapovalov, 22, had fought back from two sets down to take things to a decider against his more experienced rival, and seemingly had Nadal on the ropes heading into the fifth set; after the 34-year-old required medical treatment for a stomach issue.
But a break between the fourth and fifth sets seemed to do Nadal the world of good. He rattled off three games in a row to seize the initiative and didn’t look back, winning the set and the match.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 25, 2022
That intermission – as well as a furious earlier row in which Shapovalov branded chair umpire Carlos Bernardes “corrupt” for supposedly allowing Nadal longer than permitted to prepare to receive serve; – was still a cause for considerable anger from the Canadian as he addressed the media in Melbourne.
“I think I misspoke when I said [the umpire] is corrupt or whatever, it’s definitely emotional. But I do stand by my side. I think it’s unfair how much Rafa is getting away with;” said the defeated 14th seed; who has been in sight of a second Grand Slam semifinal appearance.
“I’m completely ready to play. The [serve] clock is ticking, 3, 2,1, it’s clicking towards zero and I’m looking at the umpire.
“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 that he’s not going to give [Nadal] a code violation because I’m not ready to play. It’s a big joke.”
Shapovalov is not the first to fume at Nadal, who has faced anger over his often labored and ritualistic approach to serving.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios exploded at the Spaniard at Wimbledon in 2019, while back in 2008 Roger Federer said Nadal treads “a fine line” with his slow play.
On Tuesday, Shapovalov was similarly seething over the break before the fifth set; saying he had not been permitted a toilet break the same circumstances in Melbourne last year; whereas Nadal was.
ALSO READ: Djokovic culpable for ‘mess’ – Nadal
“And then after the fourth set… [Nadal] had already taken two medicals. He was getting medically evaluated after the fourth set. That’s what the umpire said, and after the evaluation the guy goes and takes a toilet break.
“It’s like, ‘where’s the line, where are you going to step on the players?’
“I respect everything that Rafa’s done, he’s an unbelievable player, but there has to be some boundaries, some rules.
“It’s so frustrating as a player. You feel like you’re not just playing against a player. You’re playing against an umpire, you’re playing against so much more,” the youngster added.
“Rafa is a great player, I really respect all he has done, but it’s super difficult to go against all this.”
When asked if he felt Nadal gets preferential treatment because of his status, Shapovalov replied: “Of course, 100% he does.
“Every other match I’ve played the pace has been so quick because the refs have been on the clock; after every single point.
“And this one, after the first two sets it was like an hour and half, because it’s dragged out so much; after every single point he’s given so much time, and between sets.
“I’m not arguing the fact that he had a medical; but how can you get evaluated medically and have a toilet break in the same break, causing so much delay in the game, it’s not balanced.”
The Canadian also took the Melbourne crowd to task for cheering between first and second serves; saying that kind of leniency was yet another factor in favor of Nadal and his fellow ‘Big Three’ members Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer whenever they took to court.
“If you give them more advantages, it becomes that much harder… They are legends of the sport; but when you step on the court, it should be equal for everyone,” Shapovalov said.
Nadal admitted after the match that he had felt “completely destroyed” before recovering to win the fifth set and continue in his quest for a first Australian Open title since 2009; – which is thus far his solitary crown in Melbourne.
The Spaniard next plays Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini in the semifinal; – in what will be Nadal’s seventh appearance in the last four at the Melbourne showpiece. Berrettini overcame 17th seed Gael Monfils 3-2 in a five-set decider after going 2 sets up; then losing the next two sets.
Seeded sixth, Nadal had headed into this year’s event with lingering doubts over his fitness; after being sidelined for much of last year with a foot injury, and then contracting Covid in December.
But he will now have a welcome two days’ rest before his semifinal appearance.