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Davis Cup: GB victorious after rival hits umpire in face

By Eleanor Crooks

Great Britain won their Davis Cup tie against Canada in dramatic fashion last night after teenager Denis Shapovalov was defaulted for hitting a ball into the face of umpire Arnaud Gabas.

Shapovalov was trailing Kyle Edmund 6-3 6-4 2-1 and had just been broken in the third set when he smashed a ball in anger that struck Gabas.

It was clearly not intentional from the 17-year-old Wimbledon junior champion but, with Gabas holding his face in pain, tie referee Brian Earley had no choice but to rule a default and leave Britain the victors.

There were boos from the crowd at the TD Place Arena, who had earlier roared Vasek Pospisil to a 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-5) victory over Dan Evans that set up the deciding rubber.

Britain move through to a quarter-final in France in April.

Shapovalov said he was "incredibly ashamed and embarrassed" after his default for hitting umpire Gabas and handing Great Britain victory.

The 17-year-old knew he gave the tie referee no choice but to halt the match and leave Britain the victors.

An emotional Shapovalov, who was playing in only his second Davis Cup tie, said: "I went back and spoke to the umpire afterwards and apologised directly to him.

"Luckily he was okay but obviously it's unacceptable behaviour from me.

"I feel incredibly ashamed and embarrassed and I just feel awful for letting my team down, for letting my country down, for acting in a way that I would never want to act.

"I can promise that's the last time I will do anything like that. I'm going to learn from this and try to move past it."

The International Tennis Federation announced Gabas had bruising and swelling to his left eye and had been sent to Ottawa General Hospital for a precautionary evaluation.

The incident brought back memories of the 2012 final at Queen's Club, when veteran ace David Nalbandian was defaulted for kicking an advertising hoarding against the leg of a line judge.

GB's own Tim Henman, meanwhile, was defaulted at Wimbledon in 1995 after striking a ball at a ball girl.

Canada captain Martin Laurendeau accepted that the decision was the only possible course of action.

He said: "I didn't see what happened.

"When the last point was over I got up to see if on the changeover he'd have all his drinks and bananas and I just heard the crowd go quiet and then I looked back to see what had happened to the umpire and that's when I realised he was in the middle of it all.

"I knew immediately the rules are the rules and you've got to play by the rules."

Laurendeau, though, said he would have no qualms about picking Shapovalov for future ties and backed him to learn from the experience.

"He's a kid, he wants to face the music, he's not going to shy away," said Laurendeau.

"He's got some great talent and it's just the beginning of his career. He'll draw a big lesson out of this. Hopefully this makes Denis a stronger person, a better player but a better person, and he's already a great kid."

Belfast Telegraph

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