'Rafael Nadal's poster had to go down,' Denis Shapovalov recalls

‘Rafael Nadal’s poster had to go down,’ Denis Shapovalov recalls

Denis Shapovalov had a prominent junior career, establishing himself as one of the youngsters to watch. Denis made a name for himself in Montreal 2017 when he stunned world no. 2 and three-time Canada Open champion Rafael Nadal.

A teenager prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes. He became the youngest ever Masters 1000 quarter-finalist and the youngest at the Canada Open since Bjorn Borg in 1974! Denis became the second-youngest player with a win over Rafael Nadal after Borna Coric in Basel in 2014.

World no. 143 threw everything he had at the Spaniard. He played brave and aggressive tennis and kept the points on his racquet after firing 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Rafa had just 18 winners and 29 mistakes, never finding his best tennis and still having a chance to bring the victory home.

Nadal created six break points in the decider and led 3-0 in the tie break, only to throw it away and finish on the losing side. Nothing could separate the rivals in the shortest points, and Nadal had a slim edge in the longer ones.

Denis made a massive impact with his forehand. He outplayed Rafa in the best shot for both players and maintained his backhand safe enough to endure the exchanges with a great rival. Nadal served at 57%, faced six break chances and got broken twice.

The Spaniard won 37% of the return points, creating 11 break opportunities and converting only two to keep Shapovalov in contention. Rafa sailed through the opening set despite serving at 46%, as the Canadian failed to find the rhythm on the return.

Nadal grabbed a break in game eight and rattled off 12 of the final 13 points for 6-3.

An 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov stunned Rafael Nadal in Montreal 2017.

Denis raised his level in the second set, creating all six break opportunities in this part of the match and breaking Rafa in game two for a 4-1 advantage.

Nadal fended off a pair of break chances in the sixth game to remain within one break deficit. He broke back a few minutes later to become a favorite in the remaining games. Instead, Shapovalov showed the real clutch and earned another break in game ten to seal the set 6-4 and introduce a decider.

The more experienced player was more dangerous on the return in the first part, and he should have taken the lead at that stage. Denis refused to surrender, though, fending off six break chances and ten deuces in the marathon game three to keep himself on the positive side.

They both served well in the last seven games to present the deciding tie break. Nadal had a 3-0 lead before hitting a double fault to bring Shapovalov back into contention, and the home star fired a forehand winner to take a 5-4 advantage.

Rafa netted an easy forehand in the next point to offer his rival two match points. Denis seized the first with another cracking forehand winner that sent him into the quarters. Interestingly, Shapovalov spent that week in Felix Auger-Aliassime’s house.

Felix had taken Rafa’s poster off his wall when Denis came home following an epic victory. “I was staying with Felix Auger-Aliassime at his house, and I woke up the morning of the match, and there was a poster of Rafa right there.

I made a joke and said, ‘It’s gotta go.’ Felix had taken it off the wall when I came home after beating Rafa. A little bit of bromance began right there,” Denis Shapovalov said.

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