'Rafael Nadal is a legend, beating him was incredible,' Denis Shapovalov says

“Rafael Nadal is a legend, beating him was incredible,” says Denis Shapovalov

Five years ago, an 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov overpowered Rafael Nadal in the third round in Montreal. The home favorite defeated the legend 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes to become the youngest Masters 1000 quarterfinalist.

Shapovalov recalled the encounter and said it shaped his early career and gave him a huge boost. Besides, the Canadians are always ready to remind him of this great triumph and to discuss it with him every time he plays at the Canada Open.

It was Shapovalov’s second Masters 1000 event and he struggled through the first two rounds to meet Rafael Nadal. The youngster delivered bold and aggressive tennis, hitting 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Rafa couldn’t match those numbers but he fought well and had a chance to go ahead in the third set.

Nadal had six break points in the final set and went 3-0 in the tie-break before Shapovalov shifted into higher gear and brought home the win. Nadal served at 57%, faced six break chances and gave serve away twice.

Denis Shapovalov defeated Rafael Nadal in Montreal in 2017 with 18.

The three-time champion claimed 37% of return points, creating 11 break chances but converting only two, costing him dearly.

Nadal sailed through the opening set, despite serving at 46%, keeping Shapovalov off rhythm and breaking him 4-3. Rafa won the opener 6-3 and looked good to seal the deal in straight sets. Denis increased his level in the second set, creating all six break chances in that part of the encounter and breaking Nadal in the second game.

Shapovalov built a 4-1 lead and missed two more chances in game six. Suddenly, Nadal broke back minutes later and was now the favorite to bring the match home. Instead, Shapovalov showed the clutch and delivered another break at 5-4 to seal the set and force a decider.

The more experienced player was more dangerous on the return in the first part of the decider but that didn’t give him an advantage. The youngster refused to surrender after repelling six break points, including ten deuces in the third marathon game!

They’ve served well in the last seven games to set up a crucial tiebreak. Nadal held a 3-0 lead before hitting a double fault to bring Shapovalov back. The Canadian fired a forehand winner to take a 5-4 lead and Rafa grabbed an easy forehand in the next point to give his rival two match points.

Shapovalov cracked another forehand winner down the line to move over the top and produce a stunner. “It’s very nice when people mention the game. It was the start of my career and one of my first big encounters.

Playing and winning against a legend like Rafa was incredible. I think it’s nice because I feel like every time I come back here, people have this memory and they say to me, ‘Oh, I saw that game.’ You have a bond with the fans here; hopefully that could stay with me for my whole career.

I was a kid then and it seems like time went by very quickly. I can’t believe it’s been five years,” said Denis Shapovalov.

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