Nadal’s rival slams ‘preferential treatment’ after brutal five-setter, Berrettini beats Monfils

By Michael Gleeson
Updated January 26, 2022 — 1.57amfirst published January 25, 2022 — 7.26pm

Rafael Nadal d Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3

Rafael Nadal will meet Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals after the seventh seed beat France’s Gael Monfils in five sets to become the first Italian man to reach the Australian Open final four.

Nadal showed courage and class to win through in five sets before his opponent, Denis Shapovalov, accused umpires of giving the Spanish great preferential treatment.

Shapovalov said he did not notice Nadal was any more unwell than he was in the heat when he was given a second medical treatment.

Rafael Nadal and Denis Shapovalov talk at the net.

Rafael Nadal and Denis Shapovalov talk at the net.Credit:Getty Images

Nadal was given treatment by trainers in the fourth set for a stomach complaint and then was allowed a medical break at the end of the fourth set. He returned after six minutes and immediately broke Shapovalov’s serve to win the deciding set to claim victory 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 in more than four hours.

“I don’t think he was struggling physically. You know, we’re both struggling physically, it’s a five-set match, so I don’t think [he was unwell],” Shapovalov said.

″⁣Obviously, he called the trainer for some painkillers and this and that but in my mind, at least if he’s on court, then I’m not focusing on if he’s, whatever, you know, whatever it is. I mean, I have aches and tears, as well. I haven’t been 100 per cent the whole tournament, so I don’t think it’s something that I paid any attention to.”

Rafael Nadal talks to medical staff during a break in the quarter-final clash.

Rafael Nadal talks to medical staff during a break in the quarter-final clash.Credit:AP

Shapovalov began the game wound up and frustrated. He argued with the chair umpire and gave all chair umpires for that matter a drive-by when he told the chair, “you are all corrupt”.

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Later he admitted he should not have said corrupt but did not resile from Nadal getting preferential treatment.

“I misspoke when I said he’s corrupt or whatever I said. It’s definitely emotional but I do stand by my side. I think it’s unfair, you know, how much Rafa is getting away with,” Shapovalov said.

With the heat and the frustration of playing Nadal, Shapovalov complained about the star treatment afforded Nadal in not being penalised for time-wasting. He then said the Spanish champion should not have been allowed to leave the court for treatment after the fourth set.

“He had already taken two medicals. He was getting medically evaluated, that’s what the ump said after the fourth set, getting medically evaluated, and after the evaluation the guy goes and takes a toilet break,” he said.

Denis Shapovalov.

Denis Shapovalov.Credit:Getty Images

“It’s like, where is the line? Where are you going to step on the players and say ‘OK’. And again, I respect everything that Rafa has done and I think he’s an unbelievable player but, you know, there’s got to be some boundaries, some rules set. It’s just so frustrating as a player. You know, you feel like you’re not just playing against the player; you’re playing against the umpires, you’re playing against so much more.

“It’s difficult. 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.”

He said the “big three” stars of tennis, Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, were given more liberties than other players.

“Already on their own they’re so tough to beat and it’s so difficult but if you give them more advantages, more advantages, then it just becomes that much harder every time,” he said.

“Again, I’m not trying to take away anything they’ve done, of course they’re great champions, they’re the legends of the game. But at the end of the day when you step on the court it should be equal for everyone.”

After two sets Nadal looked like he had the match won. After four sets he looked to be biliously staggering to defeat.

“I was completely destroyed. Very, very tough day, very warm. I don’t know, I was a bit lucky at the beginning of the fifth set,” Nadal said.

An exhausted Rafael Nadal takes in the moment after downing Denis Shapovalov.

An exhausted Rafael Nadal takes in the moment after downing Denis Shapovalov.Credit:Getty Images

“At the beginning of the match I was playing great. A player like Denis, very talented, very aggressive, he was serving huge especially on his second serve.”

Nadal said he began to feel unwell in the stomach from the heat and needed a tablet from the trainers and was checked by the doctors and was still only “so-so” after the game.

“I was lucky I was serving great in the fifth,” he said.

Unlike previous years there is a two-day break now before the semi-finals. Nadal was glad of the longer break. “I am not 21 any more so for this match it’s great to have two days off,” he said.

For two sets Shapovalov said more than he did on court. Then he shut up and said a whole lot more with his tennis. He began the game angry and ended it slamming his racquet into the court.

Ultimately, he was beaten by his own immaturity and intemperance and Nadal’s maturity and guile.

Nadal to play Berrettini

Nadal will face Berrettini in the semi-final after the Italian found a higher gear in the face of a heroic fightback from France’s Gael Monfils to script a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2 win.

The match was a repeat of the quarter-final clash from the 2019 US Open, which Berrettini won in a final-set tiebreak to reach his first major semi-final.

While it was slightly easier this time for the Italian, he nonetheless needed every bit of his resilience and energy to edge past the gallant Frenchman.

“I’m really happy for myself,” Berrettini said on a floodlit Rod Laver Arena. “What a great fight again against Gael. A great match, lot of emotions. I thought I had him in the third and then I found myself in the fifth.

“I really fought hard and I put everything on court. That’s what I said to myself. And that’s why I’m really happy.”

Wih Reuters

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