(Reuters) – Denis Shapovalov called for tennis officials to take a stronger stand against disruptive fans after he was heckled during his three-set win over local hope Lorenzo Sonego at the Italian Open on Monday.
Shapovalov lost his cool, was handed a point penalty and was booed by the fans but he overcame all those distractions to beat Italy’s Sonego 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3 in his opening match in Rome.
The Canadian was given a point penalty after he climbed over the net to point out to the chair umpire the mark on his rival’s side of the court, which is prohibited by the ATP rules.
After Shapovalov complained about the punishment to the supervisor while being jeered by the fans, he screamed an expletive at the crowd as he believed he was being taunted by one spectator.
“He was just telling me to get off the court, get out of there, waving me off the court. Trying to obviously get under my skin or whatnot,” the Canadian told a news conference.
“I think the umpire just needs to keep an eye on it if a player mentions something.
“The reason why (the heckler) didn’t get kicked out was because (the umpire) told me he didn’t see what happened. That’s very understandable. I feel like he kept an eye on him after that. It didn’t bother me after that.”
The 23-year-old suggested that tennis should follow the lead of other sports where disruptive fans are evicted from the stands.
“I think in the NBA there’s a lot of hecklers and stuff like that. They’re pretty strict, the security and everything, that (the fans) don’t cross the line. If they do, they’re kicked out right away.”
The world number 16, however, acknowledged his own behaviour was not acceptable.
“Obviously I think it’s a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing. I just need to improve with handling myself about that,” Shapovalov said.
“But in terms of going forward, I’ve played in Rome a lot of times. The fans love me here and I love the fans… Even after the match, there were a lot of people standing, waiting for pictures, stuff like that.
“I do really appreciate the sport and the love I get here. I’m super excited to play another match – not against an Italian,” he joked.
(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk, editing by Pritha Sarkar)