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Nadal: Denis Was Wrong

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Denis Shapovalov was seething over Rafael Nadal's methodical pace of play in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Nadal struck back in his post-match press conference.

More: Nadal Stops Shapovalov

The sixth-seeded Spaniard said Shapovalov is wrong charging he benefits from chair umpire bias.

"It's always in the mind that the top players get bigger advantages, no, and honestly on court is not true, no?" Nadal told the media after his pulsating four hour, eight-minute victory. "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?"

After dropping the opening set to Nadal in the Australian Open quarterfinals on Tuesday, Shapovalov snapped at chair umpire Carlos Bernardes as Nadal was taking extra time to change his wristbands before starting the second set.

“Are you kidding me! You guys are all corrupt!” Shapovalov barked at chair umpire Bernardes at the start of the second set annoyed Nadal was still sitting while the Canadian stood ready to serve to start second set.

Afterward, Shapovalov conceded he "misspoke" with the "corrupt" claim, but doubled down on his assertion Nadal benefits from favorable umpiring suggesting the Spaniard successfully stalled before the start of the fifth set.

"I think it's unfair how much Rafa is getting away with," Shapovalov said, adding "to me, it's a big joke." 

Later in the match, Bernardes hit Nadal with a time violation warning on his serve. Shapovalov charges Nadal stalls to impose his tempo on the match.

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

The 22-year-old Canadian is convinced the king of clay can play the clock game and "drag it out" because he benefits from preferential umpiring.

“Of course. 100 percent he does,” Shapovalov said. “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, I mean, 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."

Nadal suggested Shapovalov was struggling to accept a painful loss.

"I honestly feel sorry for him. I think he played a great match for a long time," Nadal said. "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."

Interestingly, Nadal has had run-ins with Bernardes after the chair umpire hit him with time violations in the past.

The former No. 1 and Bernardes got into it during the Spaniard's 2015 Rio loss to Fabio Fognini, when the Italian snapped Nadal's 52-match winning streak in clay semifinals with a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory at the Rio Open.

A frustrated Nadal suffered a wardrobe malfunction in that match when Bernardes declined the Spaniard's request to leave the court to change his sweat-soaked shorts. Nadal wound up covering himself with towels to change his shorts, which he initially put on backwards. Nadal said the disrespect he felt from Bernardes created the rift that prompted him to request "a break" from Bernardes working his matches.

Hearing Shapovalov's gripes, Nadal concluded the Canadian "is wrong."

"I think in that moment Denis got I think pissed in that moment because the umpire called time and I needed like 30 seconds extra to keep changing my clothes, no?" Nadal said.  "I think in that moment, and I think it's fair, no, that Carlos give me this extra time at that moment, because normally I think Carlos make a small mistake in that moment that he call time.

"Normally at the end of the set, the umpire look around and wait a little bit to call time until the player is a little bit ready when he's changing, no? After that, I mean, I am going through all the rules. I mean, that was the thing. I think, in my opinion, Denis was wrong in that case. I understand that he just lost the set and in some way he wanted to keep playing quick, but I think he understand, and he gonna understand a little bit later that normally you have some time to change your clothes."

Photo credit: Getty