Shapovalov, 18, stuns Nadal in Montreal
With hockey legend Wayne Gretzky watching him, Denis Shapovalov, 18, beat Rafael Nadal in a third set tie-breaker in one of the greatest moments in Canadian tennis history.
Shapovalov was flowing like Gretzky with a racquet at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal, and the lefty from the greater Toronto area sometimes looked like a young Nadal.
Shapovalov wasn’t intimidated by Rafa’s body blows early. He served Rafa out wide, nailed multiple inside-in forehands, and took the initiative from the passive Nadal.
Not lacking confidence or swagger, Shapovalov kicked a serve at Nadal’s head to go ahead 5-4 in the third. His level of tenacity didn’t drop. He grew stronger and bolder as Nadal weakened in the third hour.
Shapovalov, in one point at the net, showed a summary of his athleticism: reflexes, hands, speed, agility, and jumping ability, plus a desire to seize the day and embrace the pressure of the home Canadian crowd. He was fearless, ruthless and playful too, dribbling the ball between his legs like John Isner.
Closing out a guy like Nadal is the hardest thing in tennis. Shapovalov blew a 4-1 lead in the second set, yet recovered to force a third. He sometimes played like an ATP top 20 player; other times he looked like other teens at the local club, missing badly off wild swings.
But he did it.
Rafa later praised Denis for having “the right determination”. Let’s see how far he can go. The irony is, Shapovalov, who will break the top 100 next week, might not even be the most talented young Canadian. That might be his buddy Felix Auger-Aliassime, 17, ranked 222 in the world.