Denis Shapovalov is one of the most promising young stars in the world of professional tennis. He has been producing encouraging performances in many tournaments despite a rocky 2020 season and even cracked the top 10 earlier in the year. Now World No. 12, the Canadian produced some of his best tennis on the way to the quarterfinals of the US Open and semifinals of the Rome Masters this year.
One of the earliest breakthroughs made by Shapovalov include a career highlight – a victory over Rafael Nadal in his first attempt!
Shapovalov stunned Nadal in a three-setter at the Canada Masters
Having only turned pro in 2017, the then-18-year-old Shapovalov faced a mountain to climb against Nadal in the Round of 16. However, the Canadian defeated the three-time champion in three sets and became the youngest-ever Masters’ quarterfinalist. He also became the youngest quarterfinalist at the Canada Masters since Bjorn Borg.
The victory led to Shapovalov being the second-youngest opponent to beat Rafael Nadal, after Borna Coric in 2014.
The first set of the game was clinched by Nadal, picking up 12 of the last 13 points. He capitalized on a break point in the eighth game to increase his pace.
Shapovalov was very resilient as he brought some extra quality into the second set, and broke Nadal multiple times on the way to a 6-4 second set.
The deciding set was a very tight one, with both players vying for the win. The third game was especially lengthy, and Shapovalov did a good job in protecting break points and keeping his hopes alive. Ultimately, both players served out their games to reach the tiebreaker.
In the tiebreaker, Nadal took a comfortable 3-0 lead before picking up a double fault. Shapovalov capitalized on this and motored ahead to a 5-4 lead. In the next point, Nadal netted an easy forehand, giving the Canadian two valuable match points. He sealed his victory with a blistering forehand winner.
“It’s gotta go”: Denis Shapovalov on Felix Auger-Aliassime’s poster of Rafa
Overall, Shapovalov ended the match with a brave performance featuring 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Nadal was uncharacteristically poor in the match, managing only 18 winners and 29 unforced errors. The Spaniard had a poor service game, only serving at 57%; he also struggled on return, only getting 37% of them.
The Tel Aviv-born player was staying with fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime during the tournament. He remarked, “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”. When I came home after beating Rafa, Felix had taken it off the wall. A little bit of bromance began right there.”