Nadal goes over the top as he gives Sonego a dressing

LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) – Playing Rafael Nadal on clay is said to be one of the most frustrating challenges in tennis. According to Saturday’s evidence, playing him on grass can be just as annoying – just ask Lorenzo Sonego.

The Italian had boldly played up his chances of stopping the Spaniard’s attack on a rare calendar year Grand Slam, declaring: “Grass is the best surface to hit him.”

The 27th seed was left ball in the face and a public reprimand after being at the end of a 6-1 6-2 6-4 pounding that mercifully lasted just two hours.

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While Wimbledon was not a happy hunting ground for the 2008 and 2010 champion on many occasions and Nadal lost to unknown opponents in the first two rounds in 2012, 2013 and 2014, Sonego had no hopes of making his name on this list of little-known conquerors who were brutally crushed .

Nadal dazzled in almost every department on Saturday.

His serve burned as he dropped just two points on his delivery – that too to double faults – in the opening set.

He turned misses into winners and his normally troublesome feet drove him to a 14th place last month with anesthetic injections.

But Saturday’s showdown won’t be remembered for that.

Instead, the one moment will be remembered when a visibly irritated Nadal waved Sonego to the net like a strict headmaster and gave him an ear about tennis etiquette in front of 15,000 amazed fans and millions of viewers worldwide.

And what exactly had upset the otherwise calm and polite Spaniard?

A loud grunt from Sonego in the middle of a rally in game eight of the third set seemed to have tipped Nadal over the edge, especially as the Spaniard lost serve for the first and only time in the match.

That ticking off was followed by another lengthy exchange at the net after Nadal wrapped up the win, with a visibly upset Sonego trying to understand exactly what he had done wrong.

But as they left the pitch, Nadal was quick to admit his mistake.

“I have to say I was wrong. I shouldn’t (shouldn’t) have called him to the network. My apologies for that Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp is looking to take another step closer to a 23rd Major title this year after triumphs at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros.

“All that stuff (after) the game that I don’t want to comment on because I spoke to him in the dressing room and it stays there. I can only say that I saw him personally. I apologize for that.

“My intention was never to bother him at all. Just to tell (him) one thing that was bothering me, which I think he was doing at that moment, but that’s it. I think there’s some code between the players. We had some problems there. But that’s it.”

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Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Christian Radnedge

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