A deciding Davis Cup singles rubber between Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on Sunday was called off mid-match after the latter struck the chair umpire with a ball in frustration.
With the tie level at 2-2, the rubber between Edmund and Shapovalov would have decided the winner, who would then advance to the World Group quarterfinals to face France.
Edmund had a 6-3, 6-4, 2-1 lead having just broken Shapovalov’s serve. In frustration, Shapovalov took a ball out of his pocket and angrily smashed it off court. The ball struck French umpire Arnaud Gabas in the face, bruising the area around his left eye.
Match referee Brian Earley, after discussion with the team captains, had no choice but to default the 17-year-old Shapovalov for his actions and award the rubber to Edmund. Britain was announced as 3-2 winners of the tie.
The Israel-born Canadian Shapovalov was quick to apologise to Gabas on court and even spoke to him in the referee’s office after the match.
Edmund said “it was a strange way to finish” the match while British captain Leon Smith said: “I feel for the young lad. He’s a great talent and he’s learned a harsh lesson today.”
Shapovalov’s Canadian team captain Martin Laurendeau said: “There’s always a lesson to be learned from the good moments and the worst moments. If he (Shapovalov) wants to compete at this level he has to keep it together. Emotional control is the biggest factor in this game. He must learn the lesson and hope it serves him in the rest of his career.”
Shapovalov, who was making his Davis Cup debut in this tie, showed remorse in a post-match press conference.
“I would like to begin with apologising 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,” Shapovalov said.
Earlier in the day, Vasek Pospisil had levelled the tie at 2-2 with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over Dan Evans that lasted three hours and 23 minutes.
Pospisil expressed support for his young teammate via his Twitter account. “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 (sic),” Pospisil tweeted.
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— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) February 5, 2017
A statement from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on the matter said it was “clear that Mr Shapovalov did not intend to hit Mr Gabas”.
Referee Earley has power to impose a fine of up to US$12,000 on Shapovalov for the action which can be increased by the ITF. The federation can also suspend Shapovalov for future ties.