Five years ago, an 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov stunned Rafael Nadal in the third round in Montreal. The home favorite took down the legend 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes, becoming the youngest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist.
Recalling the encounter, Shapovalov said it marked his early career and gave him a massive boost. Also, the Canadians are always willing to remind him of this great triumph and discuss it with him every time he plays the Canada Open.
It was Shapovalov's second Masters 1000 event, and he battled past the opening two rounds to set Rafael Nadal clash. The youngster delivered bold and aggressive tennis and hit 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Rafa could not match those numbers, but he fought well and had a chance to emerge at the top in the decider.
Nadal had six break points in the final set and let 3-0 in the tie break before Shapovalov shifted into a higher gear and brought the victory home. Nadal served at 57%, facing six break chances and giving serve away twice.
Denis Shapovalov defeated 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, which cost him dearly.
Nadal sailed through the opening set despite serving at 46%, keeping Shapovalov out of the rhythm and breaking him at 4-3. 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.
Shapovalov forged a 4-1 advantage and missed 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. 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 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 served well in the last seven games to introduce a deciding tie break. Nadal had 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 netted an easy forehand in the next point to give his rival two match points.
Shapovalov cracked another forehand winner down the line on the first to move over the top and produce a stunner. "It's very nice when people mention the match. It was the start of my career and one of my first big encounters.
To play and win against a legend like Rafa was incredible. I think it's nice because I feel like every time I come back here, people have that memory and tell me, 'Oh, I watched that match.' You have a bond with the fans here; hopefully, that could last with me for my whole career.
I was a kid then, and it seems time has gone very quickly. I can not believe it has been five years," Denis Shapovalov said.