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Wimbledon 2022: Rafael Nadal scolds Lorenzo Sonego on net, says sorry

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Rafael Nadal regretted his behavior in a “spirited” Wimbledon match and spoke to his rival at the net when his behavior saddened him.

Rafael Nadal apologized for beating Wimbledon opponent Lorenzo Sonego after a spirited exchange in the closing stages of their third-round clash on Sunday (AEST).

Second seed Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champions, reached the fourth round at the All England Club for the 10th time with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win.

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The 36-year-old needed back-to-back four-setters to make it to the third round and would be tested by Sonego, who made the fourth round last year.

However, Nadal didn’t get a breakpoint until he dropped service in the eighth game of the third set, with his focus possibly affected by a stoppage to close the roof of the Center Court.

He quickly broke back and sealed the win.

However, Nadal seemed upset by the noise the Italian was making on the track. He even called Sonego to the net at one point to discuss his displeasure.

The two then had a lengthy exchange at the net after match point, with Nadal stopping Sonego from walking back to his seat after their handshake to announce his position.

“I have to say I was wrong. I shouldn’t call him on the net. So apologies for that. My mistake in that. No problem. I recognize that,” said Nadal at his press conference afterwards.

“It’s something I talked to him in the dressing room and there it remains. All I can say is that I saw him in person.

“It was never my intention to bother him. Just to say one thing that bothered me that I think he was doing at the time, but that’s it.

“We had some problems there, but that’s all.”

Those comments came after Nadal was questioned about the “spicy” affair during his on-court interview immediately after the game.

“Sorry, not spicy at all,” he said. “I am very sorry now if I have bothered him. I just wanted to tell him something. I did it in a nice way, but now I feel really bad for bothering him.

“I’m going to talk to him now.”

Packing his things at the end of the meeting, Nadal told the chair umpire: “I didn’t make it in a negative way. I did well. But maybe it was wrong.”

Tennis fans were surprised when Nadal appeared on the net teaching Sonego. One British commentator said it “looked like a teacher tutoring a child”.

The Tennis Podcast tweeted: “I’ve never seen a player yell at an opponent to tell them not to do something or ask them to change their behavior and I didn’t think Rafael Nadal would be the first.”

Journalist Uche Amako tweeted: “Wow. The match ends with Nadal winning the third set 6-4, but he and Sonego are engaged in a lengthy exchange at the net. Sonego seems to argue that Nadal’s protests were unfair. Bizarre end to the game.”

Nadal already won the Australian Open and French Open in 2022 and is halfway through the first men’s Grand Slam calendar since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969.

“This was probably my best game here during the championships, against the hardest player I’ve encountered,” said Nadal.

“I was able to raise my level, I’m super happy about that.”

Nadal then takes on Dutch 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp for a place in the quarterfinals.

26-year-old Van de Zandschulp first made the last 16 at the All England Club with a 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 win over French veteran Richard Gasquet.

Nadal comfortably defeated the Dutch player in straight sets last month to take his 14th French Open title.

Originally published as ‘Never seen a player do that’: Rafael Nadal scolds Wimbledon rival at net

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