KEY BISCAYNE – The Davis Cup incident last month involving Canadian Denis Shapovalov and chair umpire Arnaud Gabas has had a happy ending, as the French umpire is back at work this week on the ITF women’s circuit.
Gabas’ eye socket was fractured after Shapovalov, the 17-year-old who was put in a position to try to win a fifth and deciding rubber for Canada against Great Britain in Ottawa in early February, lost his cool and swung at a ball with all his lefty might.
It might have hit a kid in the crowd, or a teammate. It ended up getting Gabas in the eye. The fallout was that the teenager was defaulted, and Great Britain advanced.
Shapovalov was disconsolate afterwards. The incident made international headlines as the worst possible outcome of the increasing number of ball firing and racquet-smashing incidents.
It even came up last week at the Miami Open, resulting in some input from no less than Nick Kyrgios.
Elias throws a ball
Bernardes. "If you do the same thing that the other 'unlucky' did… Don't do that. You are not like that, I know you". pic.twitter.com/uLniiMWakh
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) March 23, 2017
Fine him. We can't be having this behaviour on tour. https://t.co/RCJjV70DBM
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) March 23, 2017
Shapovalov talked to Tennis.Life about the aftermath in late February, at an ITF Futures event held in Gatineau, Que. – just a few miles from the scene of the incident.
Gabas would have worked the Cherbourg Challenger and Marseille ATP event Shapovalov referenced in the interview. But he was at home recuperating. Gabas was also slated to umpire at Indian Wells and Miami.
He made his return this week at the Engie Open de Seine-et-Marne, a $60,000 (US) tournament in France.
His return was noted by Austrian player Tamira Paszek on her Snapchat feed.
— Ang (@4AllSurfaces) March 26, 2017
Shapovalov himself Tweeted about it.
Very happy that Arnaud Gabas is healthy again. Great to see him back on the chair
— Denis Shapovalov (@denis_shapo) March 28, 2017
Good to see the Umpire Arnaud Gabas back on the tour this week at Croissy-Beaubourg. ? pic.twitter.com/oilnGgLf1J
— #TeamBelinda (@FanOfBencic) March 29, 2017
The eye doesn’t look 100 percent yet, though. And we’re told that he felt some discomfort in the eye during his first match; it may take some time to get back in “match shape” – a notion that doesn’t just apply to players, it seems!
Shapovalov’s ranking had hovered around No. 250 for more than six months after he upset Nick Kyrgios at the Rogers Cup in his Toronto hometown last summer. But he has made a big move since.
After the brief trip to France and a training week in Montreal in company of his frequent doubles partner and good pal Félix Auger-Aliassime, he has been on a tear.
Shapovalov’s singles record since then, as he begins play at a $75,000 Challenger event in Leon, Mexico Wednesday, has been a sterling 17-2.
He took the title at that Futures tournament in Gatineau (although not without losing control of his stick during a second-round match.
Shapovalov was on his way to another Futures title in Sherbrooke, Quebec when a case of food poisoning felled him before the semi-finals. Undeterred, he went up to the Challenger level and took the title in Drummondville, just outside Montreal, the following week. He followed it up with a trip to the finals at a Challenger in Guadalajara the week after that.
He defeated countryman and Davis Cup teammate Vasek Pospisil, as well as former top-15 player Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in Guadalajara.
Shapovalov’s once-stagnant ranking has now risen nearly 80 spots in a few weeks (there was no official rankings list Monday, as the ATP is in the middle of the Miami Open. Unofficially, he stands at a career-high No. 172.
The progress will be more than enough to earn Shapovalov a spot in the qualifying at the French Open in May. That comes less than a year after he won the juniors event at Wimbledon and wrapped up his junior career. A rise like this happens infrequently in the men’s game; typically it takes players a few years to get into the top 200 after making the transition.
As for Gabas, well, we’d expect to see him in Paris as well. If somehow they ended up assigned to the same court, that would truly be full circle – the happiest of endings.