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

“Rafael Nadal’s poster had to be taken down,” recalls Denis Shapovalov

Denis Shapovalov had a stellar junior career and established himself as one of the youngsters to watch. Denis made his mark in Montreal in 2017 when he stunned world No. 1. 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 quarterfinalist and the youngest at the Canada Open since Bjorn Borg in 1974! Denis became the second youngest player after Borna Coric in Basel 2014 with a win over Rafael Nadal.

World No. 143 threw everything he had at the Spaniard. He played bold and aggressive tennis, keeping the points on his racquet after recording 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Rafa only had 18 winners and 29 errors, never found his best tennis and still had a chance to bring the win home.

Nadal managed six break points in the decider and led 3-0 in the tiebreak, only to throw it away and end up on the losing side. Nothing could separate the rivals at the shortest points and Nadal held a narrow lead at the longer ones.

Denis made a massive impression with his forehand. He outplayed Rafa in the best shot for both players and kept his backhand secure enough to survive exchanges with a major rival. Nadal served at 57%, faced six break chances and got broken twice.

The Spaniard won 37% of return points, creating 11 break chances and converting just 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 last 13 points to make it 6-3.

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

Denis upped his level in the second set, creating all six break chances in that part of the game and breaking Rafa with a 4-1 advantage in the second game.

Nadal fended off two break chances in game six to stay within a break deficit. He broke back a few minutes later to become a favorite in the remaining games. Instead, Shapovalov showed the true clutch, earning another break in game ten to seal the set 6-4 and initiate a decider.

The more experienced player was more dangerous on the return in the first part and should have taken the lead at that point. However, Denis refused to give up, fending off six breaks and ten twos in the third marathon game to stay on the positive side.

Both have served well in the last seven games to present the crucial tiebreak. Nadal held a 3-0 lead before hitting a double fault to put Shapovalov back in the game and the home star blasted a forehand winner to forge a 5-4 advantage.

Rafa scored a simple forehand in the next point to offer his rival two match points. Denis captured the first with another crisp forehand winner that sent him through to the quarterfinals. Interestingly, Shapovalov spent this week at Felix Auger-Aliassime’s home.

Felix had taken Rafa’s poster off his wall when Denis came home after an epic win. “I was staying at Felix Auger-Aliassime’s house and I woke up on the morning of the game and there was a poster of Rafa.

I made a joke and said, ‘This has to go.’ Felix had taken it off the wall when I came home after beating Rafa. A bit of bromance started right there,” said Denis Shapovalov.

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