It is a harsh lesson that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by the 17-year-old up and comer as he played the deciding rubber for his country against Kyle Edmund of Great Britain. After missing a backhand to have his serve broken early in the third, Shapovalov. already trailing by 2 sets, fired a tennis ball in his pocket towards the stands in anger. It flew at a high speed to hit umpire Arnaud Gabas’ in his left eye, resulting in immediate swelling.
Listen. Even in lo-def the mic picks up sound of Shapovalov’s rashly struck ball hitting umpire in face. Umpire immediately requests ice.? pic.twitter.com/nyPveflCc9
Ever the professional, Gabas requested for some ice, and gave out the verdict:
“Game, set and match to Great Britain by disqualification”.
He has been taken to Ottawa General Hospital for further examination.
After the match, Shapovalov didn’t mince his words as he apologized:
“I would like, to begin with apologizing to that umpire, the referee and to all ITF officials. (…) It was unacceptable behavior from me. I feel incredibly ashamed and embarrassed, for letting my team down and my country down. That’s the last time I’m going to do anything like that. I’m going to learn from it.”
Questions are being raised on how strictly players must be punished for hitting balls in the air after points. The world number 1 and 2 have risked being defaulted in the past few months:
1. Novak Djokovic in Doha 2017 – In the final against Murray, Djokovic hit a ball into the stands that hit a female spectator. He was given a code violated but not defaulted.
2. Andy Murray in Cincinnati 2016 – Murray kicked a ball into the air and avoided the umpire’s face by mere inches. He was also given a code violation.
3. Djokovic in Shanghai 2016 – Similar to Murray, Djokovic kicked a ball and narrowly avoided hitting the umpire. He was only given a code violation. When asked about the incident at a later press conference, Djokovic defended himself by saying he apologized and didn’t intend to hit anybody.
In previous years, the most infamous incidents of disqualification have been from David Nalbandian, who was defaulted in 2012 for kicking a wooden box at the feet of a linesman, with the resulting derbis cutting open the man’s shin. Tim Henman was also disqualified for whacking a ball at a ball girl.
The incident also takes away from Vasek Pospisil’s inspired performance against Dan Evans in the fourth rubber that kept Canadian hopes alive. He spent over eight hours on court over the weekend for Canada. He came to the defense of his countryman, tweeting: “No one is nicer or carries themselves better for a 17 y/o than Shapovalov. Everyone can see that today was an accident. Can happen to anyone.”
Richard Ings, the former CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and former EVP Rules & Competition of ATP Tour, was harsher in his assessment on his twitter:
“A substantial ban is required. The player recklessly rocketed a ball at full force hitting an umpire in the eye. Worst seen”
The International Tennis Federation put out a statement saying “It was clear that Mr Shapovalov did not intend to hit Mr Gabas.”