Denis Shapovalov’s Davis Cup incident with Umpire Arnaud Gabas “is a wake-up call for everyone” as it could have had tragic consequences, insists Barry Cowan.
Everything was going to plan for Great Britain as Kyle Edmund closed in on a straightforward win against Denis Shapovalov in the deciding rubber in Ottawa when the Canadian teenager smashed a ball in frustration that hit umpire Arnaud Gabas in the eye.
There was no intent on the 17-year-old’s part but the outcome was an immediate default, sending Britain through to a quarter-final away in France in April.
Shapovalov was fined £5,623 and there is no intention from the International Tennis Federation at this stage to add any additional punishment, which Sky Sports’ tennis analyst Cowan agrees with.
“It was right that he was fined, but I don’t think he should be fined anymore,” said Cowan. “I also don’t think they should ban him. He knows he was in the wrong and he knows that he can’t do it again, but he will learn for it and be better for it.
“He’s played enough tennis matches. We’ve all lost our rag but there are certain things where you know you cannot cross that line – you have to be very careful. Hitting a ball aimed at a crowd can have tragic consequences. Thankfully Gabas will make a full recovery but it certainly could have been damaging to his career as an Umpire.
“The kid knew he had done wrong and he didn’t try and defend himself. He didn’t try and make excuses and said ‘it was out of order, I’ve let myself down and let my country down’.”
While Shapovalov must try to put the incident behind him, Great Britain skipper Leon Smith can start planning for what will be the toughest tie of his seven-year tenure.
France can boast four top-20 singles players and the world’s top-ranked doubles pair in Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Britain defeated France at the same stage two years ago on their way to the title, but that was on grass at Queen’s Club.
“It’s a really, really exciting tie and France will obviously be out for revenge,” said Cowan. “I think they were a little bit wounded after losing at Queen’s Club in 2015.
“I’ve no doubts that Britain will have a full team, but there will be doubts over who plays for France and what surface as to whether it will be indoors or outdoors.
“If Andy is fit and can play all three days then I’d say that we’re favourites. Doesn’t matter who France put out to play, Murray will be favourite for the two singles and the Murray brothers will be favourites to win the doubles.”