It was a moment of pure madness.
After being broken in the third set of a Davis Cup tie he was well behind in, Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov hit out – at the umpire.
Seething at the fact Britain’s Kyle Edmund had broken him again, Shapovalov smashed a tennis ball in anger and hit chair umpire Arnaud Gabas in the face.
— Matthew (@MRisingStar18) February 5, 2017
The incident, which shocked the Ottawa crowd, left Gabas requiring treatment and, eventually, a trip to hospital, as the fifth and final rubber of an intriguing battle between the two nations was called off.
Shapovalov was disqualified and, as a result, Great Britain progressed to the Davis Cup quarter-finals thanks to a nervy 3-2 success.
“I went back and spoke to the umpire afterwards and apologised directly to him,” the contrite 17-year-old said.
“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.”
— John Horn (@SportsHorn) February 5, 2017
Edmund was leading Shapovalov 6-3 6-4 2-1 at the time of the incident.
But Shapovalov, who said he would learn from the incident, ensured that Edmund – who was beaten in straight sets on Friday – would triumph immediately with his erratic behaviour.
“I can promise that’s the last time I will do anything like that,” he added.
“I’m going to learn from this and try to move past it.”
The highly-rated prospect
Shapovalov, who is ranked 251st in the world, is regarded as one of the brightest young talents on the tennis circuit.
He was the youngest player to win a match on the ATP World Tour in 2016 when he stunned Aussie Nick Kyrgios at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
His teammate Vasek Pospisil, who earlier on Sunday levelled the tie at 2-2 with a four-set win over Australian Open surprise packet Dan Evans, called for fans to forgive Shapovalov.
“No one is nicer or carries themselves better for a 17 y/o than Shapovalov,” he posted on Twitter.
“Everyone can see that today was an accident. Can happen to anyone.
“Very relieved to hear the umpire will be okay. Such an unfortunate incident. Wishing Arnaud Gabas a speedy recovery.”
Canada’s Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau said the wellbeing of Gabas was his priority.
“I didn’t see what happened. The game was over and I just heard the crowd go silent all of a sudden,” he said.
“I knew something was up. I looked at the referee to see what was going on and he was in the middle of it.
“He looks like he is going to be OK and that’s the priority here. I’m as surprised as anyone here. It’s a shame for sure.”
As a result of their victory, Great Britain will play France in the quarter-finals.
Australia, who beat the Czech Republic 4-1 at the weekend, will host the United States in their last-eight clash in April.