Denis Shapovalov has faced 24 Top-5 opponents in his career. He has won three of them, including the first duel against a rival from the elite group. The 18-year-old Canadian faced world number 2 Rafael Nadal in Montreal 2017 and delivered an upset.
The young Canadian defeated the legend 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes, advancing to the round of 16 as the youngest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist. Recalling the match, Shapovalov said he scored the beginning of his career and gave him a huge boost.
It was Shapovalov’s second Masters 1000, and he made it through the first two rounds to face Rafael Nadal. The young tennis player offered daring and aggressive tennis, with 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Rafa couldn’t match those numbers, despite fighting well and having a chance to win in the decider.
Nadal commanded six break points in the final set and led 3-0 in the tie break before Shapovalov shifted into a higher gear and took home the win. Nadal served 57%, had six break opportunities and gave up serve twice. The three-time champion was awarded 37% of the return points.
He created 11 break opportunities and converted just two, which cost him dearly. Nadal sailed through the opening set despite serving at 46%, keeping Shapovalov off the pace and breaking him at 4-3. Rafa took the first set 6-3 and seemed in a position to seal the match in straight sets.
Denis leveled up for him in the second set, creating all six of his break chances in this part of the match and breaking Nadal in the second game.
Darren Cahill pays tribute to Nadal
Rafael Nadal has set the most ideal example for the upcoming and future generations of tennis players to follow, according to leading tennis coach Darren Cahill.
“Rafa is an amazing person, an amazing athlete,” Cahill expressed. “You want the next generation to be little Rafa’s, don’t you? “The way they train, the way they treat their opponents, the way they treat everything. His work ethic is second to none, the way he goes about his tennis.
You want the next generation to have his ethics, his work ethic. We’ve been saying it for a few years that there might be a changing of the guard and we haven’t really seen it, have we? Because Novak continues to do Novak things and Rafa won a couple of majors last year with the Aussie and the French,” Cahill stated.