Ever since his first professional steps, Denis Shapovalov was the leader of the players born in 1999. Competing in front of his fans in Montreal in 2017, an 18-year-old Canadian stunned world no. 2 Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes in the third round.
Thus, Shapovalov became the youngest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist and the youngest at the Canada Open since Bjorn Borg in 1974! Playing in only his second Masters 1000 event, Denis became the second-youngest competitor with a win over Nadal after Borna Coric in Basel in 2014.
World no. 143 threw everything he had at the Spaniard, playing brave and aggressive tennis and keeping the points on his racquet to land 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. On the other hand, Rafa had 18 winners and 29 mistakes, never finding his game but still standing close to the finish line after creating six break chances in the final set and a 3-0 lead in the tie break.
Nothing could separate the rivals in the quickest exchanges, and Nadal had a slim edge in the longer ones. Still, Denis made a massive impact with his forehand, outplaying Nadal in both players' best shot area and keeping his backhand safe enough to endure the exchanges.
Nadal served at 57%, facing six break chances and giving serve away twice.
Denis Shapovalov prevailed over Rafael Nadal in Montreal 2017 at 18.
The three-time champion claimed 37% of the return points, earning 11 break opportunities but converting only two, a fact that cost him dearly.
The Spaniard sailed through the opening set despite serving at 46%, keeping Shapovalov out of the rhythm and breaking him at 4-3. Winning 12 of the last 13 points, Rafa claimed the opener 6-3 and looked good to seal the deal in straight sets.
Denis raised his level in the second set, creating all six break chances in this part of the encounter and breaking Nadal in game two to forge a 4-1 advantage before missing another pair of opportunities in game six. Suddenly, Nadal broke back a few minutes later and was now the favorite to bring the match home in straight sets and move just a win away from the no.
1 spot. Instead of that, Shapovalov showed real guts and clutch, delivering another break at 5-4 to seal the set and force a decider in front of a partisan crowd. The more experienced player was more dangerous on the return in the first part of the decider, but that did not bring him the advantage.
The youngster refused to surrender after fending off six break points, including ten deuces in the marathon game three. They both served well in the last seven games to send the action into a deciding tie break. Nadal had a 3-0 lead before hitting a double fault to bring Denis back, with the Canadian firing a forehand winner to take a 5-4 lead.
Rafa netted an easy forehand in the next point to give his rival two match points, and Denis cracked another forehand winner down the line on the first one to move over the top and fall to the ground in disbelief.