MELBOURNE, Australia – After missing out on a match he has long played with such passion, Rafael Nadal has had plenty of opportunities to re-acquaint himself with tennis at this Australian Open.
At 35, his latest comeback from injury sent him into the semi-finals, needing just two wins after breaking a treble with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, and claiming his 21st Grand Slam singles title. mine.
But it also quickly found him in defense Tuesday after his opponent, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, said Nadal had benefited from bias in their quarter-final, which Nadal won won by commanding the fifth set to prevail, 6-3, 6-4, 4. -6, 3-6, 6-3, in four hours and eight minutes.
Nadal politely denied the accusations of Shapovalov, a young Canadian. “I think he was wrong,” said Nadal.
Shapovalov, who certainly didn’t help his cause by playing a sharp, error-laden game to drop serve early in the fifth set, didn’t deserve the defeat, smashing his racquet. I entered the green reed at Rod Laver Arena right after the final. the volley deviated from the vertical post. It is in stark contrast to Nadal, who has never broken a racket out of anger in a match in his nearly 20-year professional career.
But Shapovalov was both surprised and disappointed with Nadal, the Spanish champion Shapovalov first met as a nine-year-old ballboy in the Canadian Open in Montreal and then defeated, Hollywood style. , in the same city in their first match in 2017.
However wide-eyed Shapovalov may have said of the Spaniard, he did not hold back on Tuesday: complaining during and after the match that Nadal was allowed plenty of time between points. than allowed.
After winning the first set, Nadal changed his clothes and slowly left the chair after referee Carlos Bernardes called “Time”. Shapovalov received the ball and prepared to serve as he expected, and when Nadal was finally on the court about 45 seconds after Bernardes’ announcement, Shapovalov approached Bernardes and said that Nadal should have been penalized for the delay. late.
Bernardes disagreed, and Shapovalov returned to the baseline and then approached Bernardes again, saying Nadal was not ready yet. Bernardes replied, “You’re not ready to play either because you came to talk to me.”
“Are you kidding me?” Shapovalov said as he withdrew. “You’re all perverted.”
Shapovalov, 22, received no code violations for comment, although he could be fined or sanctioned by the Australian Open upon further investigation. Shapovalov later said apologetically, “I think I made a mistake.” He engages in another exchange with Bernardes as Nadal prepares to serve for the second game of the second set despite still having seconds on the serve clock. Nadal moves towards the net. Shapovalov met him there and, after a brief exchange, the game resumed.
“It’s not something against Rafa,” Shapovalov said. “Rafa is serving, and I expect the umpire to be looking at Rafa, and the umpire to be staring at me. It makes no sense to me. “
But Shapovalov didn’t complain about Nadal, arguing with Bernardes after the fourth set that Nadal, who was briefly tested on the court for stomach problems, stretched the spirit of the rules by extended on-court rest before the final set for competition that combined medical evaluation and restroom visit.
Nadal later explained that he started to feel inadequate in the second set, most likely due to the hot, humid weather and the long break. He returned to tour this year after spending five months with a chronic leg illness and then contracted Covid-19 at the end of December at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. He was placed sixth in Melbourne, where he won the title in 2009.
Shapovalov questioned Bernardes at length as they awaited Nadal’s return, saying that he had not been allowed to combine two breaks at a past tournament. Nadal serves seven minutes after the fourth set is completed.
When asked at a post-match press conference if Nadal would receive preferential treatment, Shapovalov replied “100 per cent he does” and said there should be boundaries.
“Every other match I played, the pacing was very fast because the waypoints were updated after each match,” said Shapovalov. “This, I mean, after the first two sets, it was like an hour and a half just because he was pulled out a lot after every point. He has a lot of time between sets and all this. “
The player is allowed 25 seconds between points when serving but the umpire has the discretion to decide when to start the clock. When returning serve, the player must play at the server’s “reasonable speed,” a phrase in the tennis rulebook that leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
“I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he is an unbelievable player,” Shapovalov said. “But there has to be some boundary, some set of rules. It’s frustrating as a player. You feel like you’re not just playing against players; you’re fighting the umpire, you’re playing against so much more. It’s hard. I mean, it was a big break after the fourth set and for this reason the momentum just disappeared. ”
“They are the legends of the game,” Shapovalov said of stars like Nadal, “but when you step onto the court, that should be equal.”
Bernardes, the veteran Brazilian umpire, violated Nadal’s time by resting too long before serving in the fourth set. Bernardes and Nadal don’t always agreeand Bernardes were banned from Nadal’s matches during halftime in 2015. But that unofficial ban soon ended.
Nadal denied Shapovalov’s allegation of bias and said it was standard practice to take a little more time to change clothes and equipment after a set was played in such wet conditions.
“I think he was really wrong,” said Nadal in Shapovalov’s Spanish. “When you lose a match like this, you get frustrated. I have a lot of love for Denis. I think he’s a good guy with a lot of talent, talent to win a lot of Grand Slams. I don’t want to argue with him. But I think he was wrong. He’s young and when he’s young, someone will make mistakes.”
Nadal finds that the rules have been tightened in recent seasons to make it harder to show favoritism towards the elite or any tennis player because of the introduction of the electronic line calling feature, The clock hit between the points and this season, the toilet break time limit is stricter.
“Now you have less room to influence anything,” said Nadal, who added that he was not interested in getting an advantage on the court.
“I really believe that on the court you don’t deserve to be treated better than everyone else,” said Nadal. “And I really don’t want it, and I don’t feel like I have it.”
Nadal was often far below his best form in the second half of Tuesday’s match: missing some of his familiar forehands on the big-line run. He also made 11 double errors, a large number by his standards. But he was able to serve well when it was needed most, including delivering an ace to save a break point in the opening game of the fifth set and saving two more break points in the third game.
“I was destroyed honestly, physically, but my serves worked well,” said Nadal. “For me, every game that I win with my serve is a win.”
He also claimed an overall win and will now have two full days to recover before facing 7th seed Matteo Berrettini in the semifinals on Friday afternoon. Berrettini defeated 17th seed Gaël Monfils 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2.
Nadal often prefers to play during the day, where conditions are usually quicker and help his forehand drive through the court. But he looked as if he would be happy to play in the shade against Shapovalov.
“I’m not 21 anymore,” Nadal said wearily in his post-match interview on the court.
But 21 could still be his magic number in Melbourne, where he is just two games away from breaking one.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/sports/tennis/nadal-shapovalov-australian-open.html Rafael Nadal defeats Denis Shapovalov amid the charge of favoritism