A repentant Denis Shapovalov faced the media in Ottawa on Sunday night, expressing deep regret for the incident that led to his Davis Cup disqualification against Great Britain.
“I would just like to begin with apologizing to that referee and to all ITF officials, and to be honest all officials,” Shapovalov said, supported by Canada’s Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau to his side.
Going down a break in the third set against Kyle Edmund in the decisive fifth rubber, Shapovalov struck a ball out of frustration, unintentionally hitting the chair umpire on his left eye. Under the rules of the International Tennis Federation, Canada was disqualified, losing the match and the tie, which was level at 2-2 after four contests.
Shapovaolv, 17, was keenly aware of the gravity of the situation and understood the priority was with the injured chair umpire.
“I went back and spoke to the referee after and apologized directly to him, luckily he was ok.”
The official, Arnaud Gabas of France, received medical attention immediately, and further tests are planned to aid in his recovery.
Shapovalov continued, not making any excuses for his error.
“Obviously it was just unacceptable behaviour from me and to be honest, I just feel incredibly ashamed and embarrassed and I just feel awful for letting my team down, my country down, for acting in a way that I would never want to act.”
Team captain Laurendeau didn’t see the incident, but once he became aware, he was sure there would only be one outcome.
“I knew immediately (Canada would be disqualified). The rules are the rules, you gotta play by the rules,” Laurendeau said, before going on to note that this was clearly a moment from which the teen tennis player can learn.
“I don’t think it was a planned event. It’s a lesson that he will take from this and move forward. I mean, he’s a kid as you can see, he wants to face the music, he’s not going to shy away, he’s not that kind of guy, he’s got some great talent and it’s just the beginning of his career, so he’ll draw a big lesson out of this.”
It’s no secret that Shapovalov is a rising young player, with the junior boys’ Wimbledon trophy from 2016 already in his cabinet. Talent however, will be better complemented by maturity, a point driven home by the team captain.
“Curbing your emotions on the court is probably something anyway that he’ll need to make a living out of this sport, and you can’t compete if you don’t have emotional control. This lesson can serve him for the rest of his career and the rest of his life, of course.”
Full of remorse, Shapovalov made a pledge at the end of his press conference.
“I can promise that’s the last time I will do anything like that, I’m going to learn from this and I am going to try and move past it. I was very lucky that the referee was okay. I think it was just unacceptable from me and I’ll try to move past it,” the young Canadian said.
Laurendeau is convinced it’s a certainty that Shapovalov will bounce back as an even better individual, on and off the court.
“Hopefully this makes Denis a stronger person, a better player, but also a better person too. He’s already a great kid.”