MIKE DICKSON: Nadal rituals slow down the game but they're not illegal

MIKE DICKSON: Rafael Nadal’s tardiness and obsessive rituals slow the game down and upset his rivals like Denis Shapovalov… but they are NOT illegal

  • Denis Shapovalov twice complained to the umpire during the quarter-final clash 
  • He was unhappy with amount of time Rafael Nadal was taking between points
  • Nadal is happy to play at his own pace and often keeps opponents waiting
  • Rafael Nadal wins an ill-tempered five-set epic against Denis Shapovalov

Denis Shapovalov’s ‘corrupt’ outburst at umpire Carlos Bernardes was triggered by Rafael Nadal being late off his chair at the start of the second set when the Canadian was ready to serve.

Shapovalov fumed again at the beginning of the set’s second game for the same reason.

It is fair to say that Nadal has always been happy to play at his own pace and often keeps opponents waiting, right from when the players walk out.

Rafael Nadal is happy to play at his own pace and often keeps opponents waiting

Denis Shapovalov was unhappy with the amount of time Nadal was taking between points

One reason for the delays are the obsessive rituals that he observes, and which aid his phenomenal concentration. Famously, he likes to pick at his undershorts, but that is not all.

Before each serve he wipes his nose and clears his brow and ears of sweat. He also likes to pull at his shirt around the shoulders. 

On clay he cleans the lines with his foot before serving. Going to and from the chair he never walks on any of the lines on the court. When sitting down he arranges two drinks bottles in a diagonal line with the court.

The Canadian twice complained to umpire Carlos Bernardes during the quarter-final clash

None of this is illegal but it is his constant tardiness that some opponents find grating.

While chair officials make allowances for long rallies and heat, the tennis rulebook states: ‘As a principle, play should be continuous.’

An interesting footnote from Tuesday’s controversy is that in 2015 Nadal requested that Bernardes be taken off his matches after an altercation at a tournament in Brazil

Shapovalov, 22, lost in five sets to 20-time Grand Slam champion Nadal at Melbourne Park 

When a final backhand volley drifted wide, Shapovalov smashed his racket angrily on the court

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