Shapovalov's valiant comeback effort halted by Nadal in marathon Australian Open quarter-final
Frustrated after loss, Canadian claims opponent gets special treatment
Denis Shapovalov is out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals after a 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 loss to Rafael Nadal Tuesday.
But the Canadian went out with a bang, and a whimper.
Shapovalov called out Carlos Bernardes and his chair umpire colleagues for being "corrupt", claiming Nadal benefited from special treatment during a match played in brutal, torrid heat and humidity in Melbourne.
It certainly felt to the 22-year-old as though he had to battle multiple opponents.
"Physically I feel fine. Emotionally, it just sucks to lose that one. Definitely felt like I had it on my racquet," Shapovalov said in his post-match press conference. "Third, fourth, fifth set I felt like I was the better player, had more chances. Just one bad game for me [in the fifth set]."
WATCH | Shapovalov eliminated by Nadal in tough 5-set quarter-final:
Shapovalov felt Bernardes was giving outsized latitude to Nadal on the time between serves, and the length of his between-set breaks.
In fact, the 2022 rules for a toilet break and a change of attire combined allow up to five minutes from the time the player arrives at and enters the off-court location. So Nadal didn't particularly overstep.
"I mean, I think I misspoke when I said [Bernardes] is corrupt, or whatever I said. It's definitely emotional, but I do stand by my side," Shapovalov said. "I think it's unfair how much Rafa is getting away with."
Shapovalov was clear Nadal alone was enough of a challenge without the crowd applauding the Canadian's missed first serves, and the umpire giving Nadal what he considered privileged treatment.
Late in the fourth set, as Shapovalov was surging, Nadal had the doctor and physical trainer on court for a consult. He was given some tablets to settle a queasy stomach.
"At the beginning of the match I was playing great, and I know how difficult it is to play against a player like Denis. [Later] he was serving huge, and especially the second serve. I think I had my chances at the beginning of the third set. I didn't get it. And then I started to feel a little more tired, and he pushed me," Nadal said.
After Shapovalov forced it to a deciding fifth set, Nadal went off court for a change of attire, and a medical evaluation. They took his blood pressure and generally checked on his well-being, he said.
With all that, it was exactly seven minutes before play resumed.
You feel like you're not just playing against the player; you're playing against the umpires ... [and] so much more.— Denis Shapovalov on his quarter-final loss to Rafael Nadal
Shapovalov's momentum clearly was impacted even if nothing was amiss rules-wise.
And the Canadian noted that at last year's Australian Open, he was refused a bathroom break because he had already asked for a medical time out.
"Where is the line? I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he's an unbelievable player. But there have got to be some boundaries, some rules set. It's just so frustrating as a player. You feel like you're not just playing against the player; you're playing against the umpires, you're playing against so much more," Shapovalov said.
WATCH | Shapovalov expresses frustration with chair umpire:
Later, Nadal said he felt Shapovalov was off-base in claiming the 20-time Grand Slam champion received special treatment.
He put that down to youth.
"I honestly feel sorry for him. I think he played a great match for a long time. Of course it's 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?" Nadal said.
While the oven-like conditions were the same for both, the 13-years-older Nadal, the No. 6 seed, clearly was feeling the brunt of it.
20 major singles titles
But Shapovalov, seeded No. 14, was tight at the start. Flat.
"It was nerves. I didn't feel comfortable. It was my first match in a while on Rod Laver [Arena] so he was definitely more comfortable out there. I wasn't serving great, was struggling with the returns. So the rhythm was off," Shapovalov said. "But yeah, I'm happy with the way I was able to fight and come back. I definitely found my game late in the third and in the fourth."
Elsewhere, seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini downed France's Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 3-6 3-6 6-2 to become the first Italian man to reach the semifinals and will face Nadal.
Nadal shares the men's record of 20 major singles titles with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and he's got an inside run with the absence of his long-time rivals at Melbourne Park. Federer continues to recover from knee surgery, and Djokovic was deported for failing to meet Australia's strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
Nadal was appearing in his 14th Australian Open quarter-final, tying him with Australian John Newcombe for second behind Federer (15).
Shapovalov, 22, was in his first Australian Open quarter-final. He came off a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
Nadal converted two-of-three break opportunities that allowed him to win the opening two sets and take early control of the match.
The two remained on serve in the third set until the 10th game when Shapovalov earned his first break to take it 6-4. Then in the fourth set, Shapovalov recorded his second break for a 3-1 advantage en route to a 6-3 victory to force a fifth and deciding set.
An early third break helped stake Nadal to a 3-0 advantage. Shapovalov held serve for the remainder of the set but couldn't break Nadal, who was able to serve out the set and match.
Shapovalov finished with 20 aces and five double faults while Nadal had 10 aces and 11 double faults.
Canada still has a player alive in men's singles. Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime will face Russian Daniil Medvedev also in quarter-final action.
Barty, Keys set for semis clash
The women's quarter-finals were over in straight sets, with 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys beating French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-2 in the Day 9 opener on Rod Laver Arena and top-ranked Ash Barty advancing with a 6-2, 6-0 win over No. 21 Jessica Pegula.
Barty is back in the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the second time in three years; Keys is back seven years after losing her first Grand Slam semifinal to Serena Williams in Australia.
Barty, who won the Wimbledon title last year and the French Open in 2019, wants to become the first Australian woman to win the Australian Open singles title since 1978.
Keys continued her resurgent 2022 season, extending her winning streak to 10 matches, including a title run in a tune-up event, and 11 overall for the year. She only won 11 matches in total in 2021, when her year-end ranking slumped to 56th.
With files from The Associated Press