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MAILBAG: Was Rafael Nadal the true Wimbledon 'bully,' not Nick Kyrgios?

In Monday Mailbag this week, we take a look at a controversy-filled Saturday and Wimbledon and ask whether Rafael Nadal should have been the one accused of 'bullying,' not Nick Kyrgios
Rafael Nadal reacts at Wimbledon

Monday Mailbag is the feature where you, the reader, sets the agenda for discussion on TennisBuzz. This week, the Wimbledon actions of Rafael Nadal are put under the microscope. 

Dear TennisBuzz,

Saturday at Wimbledon was a crazy day with all sorts of drama going on between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios.

Tsitsipas accused Kyrgios of ‘bullying and intimidation,’ and most of the TV commentators were siding with him too.

Meanwhile, on Centre Court, Rafael Nadal was all but getting away with calling Lorenzo Sonego to the net to confront him without provocation. I have been watching tennis for nearly 40 years and I can’t remember seeing anything like it.

If what Kyrgios was doing do Tsitsipas at Wimbledon was ‘bullying and intimidation,’ then surely what Nadal did to Sonego was at least the same?


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Editor’s reply: It’s probably not going to be a very popular answer, but we would probably agree that what Nadal did could certainly be described as intimidation. ‘Bullying’ is a strong word, and not one that we like to throw around easily. We weren’t really keen on Tsitsipas using it, to be perfectly honest.

It also has to be noted that Nadal himself has been very quick to apologise for what happened, which was the right thing to do and admirable.

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The incident with Nadal and Sonego at Wimbledon was definitely an ugly one and even more unusual. If it was a young player doing it, you’d be quick to put it down as an innocent mistake, but can we really say that for Nadal?

He knows that if he has a problem the correct procedure is to take it to the chair umpire and allow them to deal with it if they deem fit. It’s the umpire’s decision to make, not Nadal’s. It’s a bit disrespectful to both his opponent and the chair for him to decide he has the right to umpire the match himself.

Was it a deliberate attempt to leverage his considerable presence against a less experienced player at a crucial time of the match? Only he knows that and we are not here to make any accusations. What we can say without any doubt, though, is it certainly prompted a serious momentum change that was beneficial to him.

We almost have to take the names out of this and reduce it down to actions alone.

Player A called a younger and less experienced opponent to the net at a crucial time to tell him to his face that something he was doing was ‘bothering’ him without the umpire being involved. Player B was unhappy with something on court and protested with the umpire to do something about it.

I don’t think there are many people who would say that Player B was the one who was engaging in intimidation.

There is no reason to assume that Nadal is immune to frustration and certainly no reason to assume he is infallible. Again, he has admitted his wrongdoing on this immediately. Every other player has moments of frustration on court and reacts in ways we, as fans, find questionable. It would be frankly bizarre if Nadal didn't.

Now, just to be clear, we do not think Rafael Nadal is 'a bully' and nor are we accusing him of it. But if Nick Kyrgios is to be accused of it for what he did against Stefanos Tsitsipas, then Nadal should be looked at similarly too.

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