GB through by default
Image © Getty Images
WHEN the dust settles, captain Leon Smith will prepare Great Britain for a Davis Cup quarter-final against France in April after his team earned their place, literally, by default.
An ashamed and embarrassed Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, kicked it up when he presented SmithÈs side with a spot by firing the ball like a bullet into the left eye of umpire Arnaud Gabas leaving it black, the French official hospitalised and the offender defaulted in what was clearly a freak accident. Kyle Edmund had won the deciding rubber. 2015 champions GB had beaten their hosts 3-2 in Ottawa to make the last eight for the fourth year in a row.
I just feel awful for letting my team down, for letting my country down...
But Edmund was very much in charge against 17-year-old debutant Shapovalov, leading the Junior Wimbledon champion 6-3 6-4 when he broke his opponent and sparked the reaction which ended Canadian hopes.
It was shades of Tim Henman, a young English gentleman from Oxford, otherwise known for perfect oncourt manners, who accidently struck ball girl Caroline Hall with a ball at the 1995 Wimbledon and was defaulted.
Henman presented Caroline with flowers, while an equally remorseful Shapovalov apologised to Gabas, his team, country and anyone else he could think of. He tried to live up to the description given him by his captain Martin Laurendeau as a great kid.
The precocious talent with long blond hair was teary as he said: Luckily he (Gabas) was OK but obviously it’s unacceptable behaviour from me..
“I just feel awful for letting my team down, for letting my country down, for acting in a way that I would never want to act
.”I can promise that’s the last time I will do anything like that. I’m going to learn from this and try to move past it.”
Image © Getty Images
Edmund said: “It was a strange way to finish. I’ve never been part of something like that.”
Smith, who are away to France, said: “A bit of a surprise what happened at the end there and I feel for the young lad. He’s a great talent and he’s learned a harsh lesson. Kyle was absolutely fantastic.
Edmund swiftly set about dampening home hopes in the deciding rubber in front of 6,000 as he bounced back from his shock defeat in the opening singles against Vasek Pospisil.
The Yorkshireman went in as favourite on ranking and experience. But Shapovalov, with the fearlessness of youth, looked buoyed up with his powerful serve and whipped backhand threatening to do some damage. But lack of familiarity with such a stage told as he littered his game with errors as Edmund took a firm hold, his serve and forehand big weapons.
Shapovalov double-faulted as Edmund broke him at 5-3 in the first before taking the set on an ace The Brit broke his opponent again in the second set and moved two sets up with another ace.
Then came the misguided missile aimed for the net from mid-court, a chat between Smith, Laurendeau and match referee Brian Earley in front of a silent, tense crowd and the default decision.
Shapovalov slumped into his chair the picture of regret and will no doubt face the wrath of officialdom for his flash of immaturity. He has to learn. And so do other players, even the legendary Novak Djokovic, who has hit his share of balls – wide of officials – in frustration
Laurendeau said: “There’s always a lesson to be learned from the good moments and the worst moments. If he 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.”
Former Davis Cup finalist and captain John Lloyd said: Kyle Edmund has won this match but you don’t want to win like this – it’s a shocking way for it to finish.
This has taken a lot of gloss off for Kyle Edmund but he was going to win this match anyway. The incident looked worse the second time you saw it.
“It was meant to go out of the stands, but Shapovalov got it completely wrong.
* Quotes from the BBC