Rafa Nadal has issued an extraordinary apology to defeated opponent Lorenzo Sonego after admonishing the Italian youngster at the net in their third-round clash at Wimbledon.
The 22-time grand slam champion lost his cool with his opponent in ugly scenes during his 6-1 6-2 6-4 triumph on centre court on Saturday.
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With Nadal up 4-2 in the third set, the Spaniard was left fuming when Sonego successfully got officials to close the roof so that the floodlights could be turned on in the late evening.
With his victory charge having been halted, Nadal got even more annoyed on the resumption when the Italian roared with delight in the middle of a rally after pulling off a stunning shot.
After then going on to drop serve for the first time in the match, Nadal beckoned Sonego to the net to lecture him about his behaviour.
Nadal and Sonego also engaged in a lengthy conversation at the net after the final point, with the pair appearing to settle their argument.
After calming down and racing to victory, Nadal seemed to recognise that perhaps he had been the one acting 'unethically' for scolding the 27-year-old in such public fashion.
"First of all, I have to say that I was wrong. Probably I will not - I should not call him on the net," said the 36-year-old.
"So apologise for that. My mistake in that. No problem. I recognise that.
"Then after that, all the stuff during the match that I don't want to comment, because is something that I spoke with him in the locker room and it stays there.
"Only thing I can say is I saw him personally. I apologise for that.
"My intention was never to bother him at all. Just to tell one thing that was bothering me that I think he was doing in that moment, but that's it.
"I think there is some codes between players. Yeah, we had some issues there. But that's it."
Tennis world stunned by Rafa Nadal outburst
Addressing the crowd in his on-court interview, Nadal said: "From the bottom of my heart... I feel really bad now if I bothered him, so I feel sorry for that."
Nadal later added: "I think everyone have to go to the bed with being calm with the things that you have done, and if you can't sleep with calm and being satisfied with yourself, it's because you did thing that probably were not ethical, correct."
Speaking in how own press conference, Sonego blasted Nadal for his actions and said the incident distracted him at the worst possible time.
"A player should not call his opponent on the net. You cannot do that at Wimbledon," the Italian said.
"Nadal should have just had a word with the umpire. He distracted me."
Tennis fans and commentators were taken aback by Nadal's uncharacteristic display, with many turning on the Spanish champion for his actions.
I have never seen a player call an opponent to the net to tell them not to do something or ask them to change their behaviour, and I did not think Rafael Nadal would be the first.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) July 2, 2022
How DARE Nadal call Sonego to the net to tell him what to do! Who the heck does he think he is to tell Sonego to stop grunting.
This Rafa guy is so full of himself, but I'm supposed to believe he's humble? LOL!
Just so you know, no one grunts more than Rafa in the men's game.
— Afriyie 🐺 (@theafriyie_) July 2, 2022
Rafa broken for the first time in the match at 4-4 then called Sonego to the net to complain about his grunting. Can you imagine if players called Nadal to the net every single time he goes over the shot clock for serving?
This was intimidation and Sonego was broken on 9th game. https://t.co/We3WjcGeRJ
— Pavvy G (@pavyg) July 2, 2022
Unsportsmanship from Nadal!!!! Sonego was unhappy. Let’s hear what the Italian will say at press conference. Nadal invited Sonego at 4:4 (not break) to net and said something…Sonego didn’t agree and complained the umpire. Umpire didn’t care… #nadalsonego pic.twitter.com/pfnleVYPmT
— Yerik_nolefamkz 🇰🇿 (@yerikilyassov) July 2, 2022
Tsitsipas v Kyrgios is an absolute circus, and Nadal just told Sonego off at the net. Genuinely bonkers day of tennis
— Jethro Broughton (@Jethro_sb) July 2, 2022
Only Rafa can call you straightforwardly on the net and ask you to change your behaviour. Furthermore, when he asks such things then you simply nod and do what you have been requested. #Wimbledon #Nadal https://t.co/4eSATkSA67
— Sourabh Suman (@Imsourabhsuman) July 2, 2022
Wow. The match ends with Nadal winning the third set 6-4 but he and Sonego are involved in a prolonged exchange at the net. Sonego seems to be claiming Nadal's protestations were unfair. Bizarre end to the match... #Wimbledon https://t.co/aRHaInZQCe pic.twitter.com/bw8Havtq5R
— Uche Amako (@UcheAmako) July 2, 2022
— Alek (@Kloppmightyreds) July 2, 2022
Absolutely disgusting behavior by Nadal, who constantly breaks the rules himself. This was one of the most unsportsmanlike things I’ve ever seen. Hopefully someone puts an end to his Wimbledon run soon.
— Ricky Bobby 🐺 🐊 (@RickyBobbyCA) July 2, 2022
The dramatic scenes played out as Nadal produced his 'best match' at Wimbledon this year, making the fourth round for the 10th time in his career.
After winning the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year, the 36-year-old is making increasingly ominous progress towards completing the third leg of a potential calendar Grand Slam.
Halfway towards emulating the great Rod Laver as the only man to win all four majors in a season in the Open era, Nadal outclassed the Italian 27th seed on Saturday.
The 2008 and 2010 champion, seeking to extend his record to 23 grand slam triumphs, will be the warmest of favourites when he next tackles the Dutch No.21 seed Botic van de Zandschulp, who beat French veteran Richard Gasquet 7-5 2-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-1.
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