Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta stormed off court in a jaw-dropping fit of rage just seconds after being controversially beaten by Kei Nishikori in a five-set epic at the Australian Open on Monday evening.
On a night that saw Serena Williams stage a remarkable comeback to beat top-ranked Simona Halep and advance to the quarterfinals, Carreno Busta’s epic meltdown left fans and commentators speechless.
The Spaniard was booed from the court as he screamed obscenities at the umpire and threw his gear in an uncontrollable tantrum.
Commentator and former Australian Open champion Jim Courier said he had never seen anything like it on the professional tennis circuit.
Nishikori trailed by two sets but staged a superb comeback to win 6-7 (8-10) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (10-8) in a match that lasted five hours and five minutes.
The match was overshadowed by a bizarre umpiring decision that saw Carreno Busta lose his cool, composure and eventually, the match.
With the new tiebreak rules coming into effect in the fifth and final set, Carreno Busta led 8-5 and was just two points away from victory.
A shot of his was incorrectly called out, though, moments before Nishikori hit an easy winner.
Carreno Busta correctly challenged the call but was then staggered to see the court umpire award the point to the Japanese player, instead of a replay.
He could not contain his frustration in a heated discussion with the official and went on to lose the final five points of the tiebreak, leading to this staggering outburst.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 21, 2019
Carreno Busta’s rage continued in the tunnel as he yelled, screamed and booted a towel to the surprise of a range of commentators including Lleyton Hewitt.
“This is a quiet guy. In the locker room, [he] doesn’t say a lot. [He] gets along with everybody – all the other players,” Hewitt said on the Nine Network.
Speaking after he had calmed down in his press conference, Carreno Busta admitted he “lost the head” and apologised.
“Obviously I’m very sad … after five hours fighting, after five hours’ match … the way that I leave from the court wasn’t correct and I’m so sorry,” he said.
“I try to leave faster as possible when I lost that last point, because I know that in any moment I lost the head.
“I think that I played really good. I play an unbelievable match. Also Kei, he play really good. That’s sad to leave like this.”
Carreno Busta said he did not need to see a replay of the incident and said he did not “understand” the decision.
“He [Kei] plays good in this moment [after the incident]. Maybe I distract [sic] a little bit,” he added.
Nishikori acknowledged the controversial moment came on an “important point” but told journalists: “You should ask how I came back from two sets down. That was only one point.”
Williams knocks out top seed
Serena Williams earlier sent a statement to her Australian Open rivals with a 6-1 4-6 6-4 win over top seed Halep in a tremendously entertaining contest.
The American thrashed 44 winners to Halep’s 24, the difference in a match that ebbed and flowed at regular intervals.
Crucial in the 23-time grand slam singles winner’s latest triumph was Williams saving three break points at 3-3 in the final set.
Williams plays Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals and believes she has more improvement left in her.
“I’m hanging in there – I think, overall, I’m solid. I can definitely go to a new level,” she told reporters.
“I have to if I want to stay in the tournament.
“She’s beaten me on an occasion or two or three … I’ve got to return a little bit better.”
Djokovic progresses in evening session, too
Top seed Novak Djokovic won in the men’s singles, toppling Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena in the night session.
He will play Nishikori while Milos Raonic will meet Lucas Pouille in the last eight after both won on Monday.
Raonic’s win was particularly notable, defeating fourth seed Alexander Zverev in straight sets.
Pliskova prepared for her clash with Williams with her ninth success in a row, a straight sets win over Garbine Muguruza, while Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina were also victorious.