By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Canadian young gun Denis Shapovalov raged at the chair umpire before succumbing to nerves as he crashed out of the Australian Open first round 6-3 6-7(7) 6-1 7-6(3) to unseeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
Shapovalov, seeded 13th and widely tipped as a future Grand Slam champion, was out of sorts from the start at Margaret Court Arena and received a code violation after pounding his racket into the blue hardcourt when broken early in the third set.
That warning triggered a tirade at umpire Renaud Lichtenstein from the 20-year-old, who yelled repeatedly at the Frenchman: “It’s my racket, I can do whatever I want with it!”
He was still indignant an hour after his match, saying it was a “terrible call”.
“The rule that I know is that if I break the racket you can code me but you can’t code me for slamming it,” a frustrated Shapovalov told reporters.
“I’m not doing anything, it didn’t impact anyone and yeah, the racket was still intact.
“He gave me the warning because I did it two or three times and I think it’s not the way it works. He said I kept doing it so he was going to code me, which is a terrible decision.”
The tournament’s code of behavior outlaws racket abuse, defining it as “intentionally and violently throwing, destroying or damaging” them on court.
Shapovalov, the highest seed knocked out of the tournament early on Monday, was broken in the opening game of the match, conceded 17 unforced errors in the first set and came within a point of losing the second before Fucsovics gifted it with a double-fault.
After losing his temper at Lichtenstein, Shapovalov surrendered the third set in a prolonged sulk.
He knuckled down in the fourth but ended up squandering a 4-2 lead.
Fucsovics, a muscular 27-year-old who claimed his first and only ATP title in Geneva in 2018, was inspired in the deciding tiebreak, passing the net-rushing Canadian twice on the way to a 6-2 lead.
Shapovalov staved off one match point but bowed out on the second with his 62nd unforced error.
Fucsovics will play the winner of Italian Jannik Sinner and Australian qualifier Max Purcell.
Ahead of the tournament, Shapovalov had castigated organizers for allowing qualifying to go ahead as players struggled amid thick bushfire smoke over Melbourne Park, and said he would decline to play if he felt his health was under threat. [L4N29N037]
He said on Monday his concerns had not clouded his preparations or thinking against the Hungarian on a day when air quality was rated “good” by authorities.
“Not all of me was there today,” Shapovalov said ruefully.
“I think I played really nervous today. Obviously I was in really good shape, really good conditions going into the tournament and yeah, just played really tight today.”
(Editing by Himani Sarkar/Peter Rutherford)