Denis Shapovalov - Forgotten ranking milestone and Rafael Nadal parallel


Denis Shapovalov - Forgotten ranking milestone and Rafael Nadal parallel
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Denis Shapovalov has had a miserable season, struggling with a knee injury and winning only 13 matches. The Canadian has not played since Wimbledon and is hoping to recover and return at his best ahead of 2024. Six years ago, Shapovalov made a name for himself as one of the youngsters to watch, finishing the 2017 season with the ATP Newcomer of the Year and ATP Most Improved Player of the Year awards.

Denis stunned Rafael Nadal in Montreal and cracked the top-50 in October, achieving that at 18 years and five months. Thus, Shapovalov became the third-youngest top-50 player since 1993, joining Rafael Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt!

Denis left names like Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin and Andy Murray behind, entering the exclusive group before them. The Canadian kicked off the 2017 season ranked 250th. He made progress following the Canada F1 Futures title, backed by the Canada F2 Futures semi-final.

Denis Shapovalov entered the top-50 at 18 years and five months.

Denis played Drummondville Challenger a week later and went all the way, winning his first title at that level and gaining a boost. Shapovalov reached the Guadalajara Challenger final, finding himself in the top-200 before turning 18.

The results could have been better in the next three months, and Denis restored his A-game in July. The young gun conquered the Gatineau Challenger and lost in the semi-final in Granby a week later. Entering a big scene in Montreal, Denis stunned Rafael Nadal en route to the semi-final, becoming the youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist!

A teenager qualified for the US Open main draw and reached the fourth round, standing as the youngest player in the last 16 in New York since Michael Chang in the 80s! Shapovalov did enough to crack the top-50 in October, becoming the youngest player in that group since Rafael Nadal!

Denis had five Challenger quarter-finals in the previous 12 months, moving into four semi-finals and lifting two trophies from three finals. Shapovalov earned eight ATP wins at five tournaments, with two notable results in Montreal and New York.

Rafael Nadal had an even more impressive run toward the top-50 in 2003, achieving that at 17 years and two months! Rafa stood outside the top-450 in August 2002 (at 16), passing over 400 rivals in the following 12 months. Super-talented Spaniard conquered five Futures titles by the end of 2002, carrying that form to the Challenger Tour.

Nadal played six Challenger finals within a year, lifting two trophies and cracking the top-50 after conquering Segovia, his penultimate Challenger tournament in a career. Rafa also collected 13 ATP wins, including the Umag semi-final.

Nadal secured four Masters 1000 victories in Monte Carlo and Hamburg, backed by the Wimbledon third round, doing enough to find himself in the top-50 at such a young age and marching toward the top.

Denis Shapovalov Rafael Nadal