Rafael Nadal called Lorenzo Sonego, his third-round Wimbledon opponent, up to the net on Saturday as he seemed to take issue with calls from the Italian to turn on the lights and close the roof. The pair then had another lengthy discussion after Nadal sealed his straight-sets victory, booking his spot in the round of 16.
The issue began when Nadal struck Sonego on the head, which prompted the Italian to request that the lights be turned on at 3-1 in the final set. The roof was eventually closed at 4-2, prompting a frustrated reaction from the Spaniard who was anxious to see out the job.
“He wants to get this done,” said the commentator. “It would be a bit rich as Nadal likes to take his time but we’re not having a fracass here like they are on Court 1. Nadal is not happy, it’s earlier than normal. Nadal is actually questioning this. He feels like Sonego has dictated this.”
After the restart, Sonego won two games on the spin to level things up at 4-4. Unusually, Nadal then called his opponent to the net where they had a heated exchange, prompting the umpire to get involved.
“This is interesting, he wants a word,” the commentator added. “That is amazing. I’m very surprised that Rafa took it upon himself and it just shows he lost his serve to love. He has called his opponent to him and if I was Lorenzo Senogo I would be pretty offended too.
“He made a noise after the first return after the first return on the very first point and Nadal is saying it’s disrespectful and I don’t like the etiquette. We’re trying to match Court 1 here.”
Nadal then rediscovered his momentum to win the final two games and see out the match. And he made it look relatively easy too, coming through 6-1 6-2 6-4 to notch his first straight-sets victory of the tournament, but the fair came together again at the net once the result was confirmed and the discussion was clearly broader than the usual handshakes and formalities.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion shed light on the incident during his post-match interview, however, and insisted that he did not purposely escalate the situation. “Sorry, not spicy at all,” he said. “I feel very sorry now if I bothered him. I just wanted to tell him something. I did it in a nice way but I feel really bad now if I bothered him. I’m going to talk to him right now.”
Nadal will now gear up to face Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp in the fourth round – his highest-seeded opponent so far. The 26-year-old has beaten the likes of Feliciano Lopez and Richard Gasquet to get this far, and is likely to put up a stern test.
Looking further into the future, he could be on a collision course to meet Aussie sensational Nick Kyrgios in the seim-finals. Kyrgios beat fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fiery encounter on Saturday, and looks to be a tough draw for anyone that crosses him.