Rafael Nadal’s well-earned reputation as the Mr Nice Guy of tennis took a bit of a dent during his straight sets win over Lorenzo Sonego as the Spanish superstar took the extraordinary step of calling his opponent to the net to lecture him about his behaviour.
The 36-year-old was leading in the third set of their third-round match at Wimbledon when Sonego appeared to anger him by asking for the roof on centre court to be closed, then yelled in the middle of a point when he hit a good shot.
R. Nadal had his serve broken for the first time in the match and summoned the Italian to the net to give him some not-so-friendly advice about how to conduct himself, then repeated the dose at the end of the game.
When the pair shook hands, the 14-time French Open champion stayed at the net and scolded Sonego, grabbing him so he couldn’t walk back to his chair straight away and having more than a few animated words to say as the Italian chatted straight back to him.
R. Nadal was quick to admit he was at fault in his post-match press conference.
‘I have to say that I was wrong. Probably I will not – I should not call him on the net,’ he said.
‘So I apologise for that. My mistake in that. No problem. I recognise that. It’s something that I spoke with him in the locker room and it stays there.
‘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. We had some issues there, but that’s it.’
Sonego called the legend out for bad behaviour after his loss.
‘A player should not call his opponent on the net. You cannot do that at Wimbledon,’ he said.
‘Nadal should have just had a word with the umpire. He distracted me.’
Only Nadal can grunt loudly and take 10 minutes between points. All the other peasants will get lectured. #Wimbledon #Wimbledon2022 #Sonego
— James Lewison (@squand4) July 2, 2022
Fans agreed and slammed Nadal for not living up to his image as one of the most level-headed players on the tour.
‘How DARE Nadal call Sonego to the net to tell him what to do!’ tweeted Afriyie.
‘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.’
‘Can you imagine if players called Nadal to the net every single time he goes over the shot clock for serving?’ asked Pavvy G. ‘This was intimidation and Sonego was broken on 9th game.’
Valentina wrote: ‘Wow, I didn’t expect Nadal to be such a drama queen, what a disappointment from a big champion. Pathetic scene.’
Nadal now moves on in his quest to take out the first men’s calendar year Grand Slam since Australian legend Rod Laver accomplished the feat in 1969.
He’ll face 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp for a place in the quarter finals.