The 21-year-old Denis Shapovalov has been among the youngsters to watch in the last three or four years. The Tel Aviv native started the current season ranked 15th and managed to crack the top-10 despite some ups and downs in the plagued year, reaching the US Open quarter-final and Rome's semis to find himself in the elite company.
Denis made a name for himself in Melbourne 2017 when he stunned world no. 2 and a three-time Canada Open champion Rafael Nadal. A teenager prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 45 minutes, becoming the youngest ever Masters 1000 quarter-finalist and the youngest at Canada Open since Bjorn Borg in 1974!
Denis became the second-youngest player who defeated Rafael Nadal after Borna Coric in Basel in 2014. World no. 143 threw everything he had at Nadal, playing brave and aggressive tennis and keeping the points on his racquet, firing 49 winners and 41 unforced errors.
On the other hand, Rafa had just 18 winners and 29 mistakes, never finding his best tennis and still having a chance to bring the victory home. Rafa created six break points in the decider and led 3-0 in the tie break. Nothing could separate the rivals in the shortest points, and Nadal had a slim edge in the longer ones.
Denis made a massive impact with his forehand, outplaying Nadal in the best shot for both players and keeping his backhand safe enough to endure the exchanges with a great rival. Nadal served at 57% below his standards, facing six break chances and getting broken twice.
The Spaniard won 37% of the return points, creating 11 break opportunities and converting only two to keep Shapovalov in contention. The Spaniard sailed through the opening set despite serving at 46%, as the Canadian failed to find the rhythm on the return.
Rafa grabbed a break in game eight, rattling off 12 of the final 13 points for a 6-3.
In Montreal 2017, an 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov stunned Rafael Nadal.
Denis raised his level in the second set, creating all six break opportunities in this part of the match and breaking Nadal in game two for a 4-1 advantage.
Nadal fended off a pair of break points in the sixth game to remain within one break deficit, breaking back a few minutes later and becoming a favorite to bring the victory home. Instead of that, Shapovalov showed the real clutch, earning another break in game ten to seal the set 6-4 and set a decider.
The more experienced player was more dangerous on the return in the first part of the final set, and he should have taken the lead at that stage. Denis refused to surrender, fending off six break chances and ten deuces in the marathon game three to keep himself alive.
They both served well in the last seven games, and the deciding tie break became inevitable. Nadal had a 3-0 lead before hitting a double fault to bring Shapovalov back into contention before the home star fired a forehand winner to take a 5-4 advantage.
Rafa netted an easy forehand in the next point to offer his rival two match points, allowing Denis to seize the first with another cracking forehand winner that sent him into the quarters. "I was staying with Felix Auger-Aliassime at his house, and I woke up the morning of the match, and there was a poster of Rafa right there.
I made a joke and said, "It's gotta go." When I came home after beating Rafa, Felix had taken it off the wall. A little bit of bromance began right there," Denis Shapovalov said.