"It's incredible. I can't even talk right now. I grew up watching Rafa, so just to be able to compete with him is one thing...And to come out winning is a dream come true for me," Denis Shapovalov said, getting emotional.
This extraordinary win took place at the 2017 Rogers Cup where on this NextGen's home turf he defeated an icon in three sets. Can he win over another top 5 ATP champ again? Shapovalov has had an up and down 2019 season which is slowly coming to a close.
He has won 10 of his 14 matches that stretched out through the spring and summer. He has just won his opening round in Shanghai over a buddy and fellow NextGen guy Frances Tiafoe at Center Court. The next round of 32 he will face Novak Djokovic.
The Canadian vividly remembers his bout with the Serb at the start of the season at the Australian Open's third round. He had pushed him to four sets but had tightened up in the last set blown out with a bagel. The Italian Open he had met up with the Serbian again to lose in straight sets.
Shapovalov is optimistic on playing Djokovic saying "He's beaten me twice so there's not much for me to lose, so I'll just go out there and enjoy myself." The Serb feels he's at the top of his game after having just won the Japan Open in Tokyo.
Denis Shapovalov has felt the twinge of excitement many times before coming up against other top players who he's came out as the victor. He'd won over the veteran Tomas Berdych in straight sets at the ATP Rotterdam.
He's defeated Marin Cilic at Indian Wells and won over a fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime at the U.S. Open. Shapovalov analyzes his match over Tiafoe as to his victory over Rafa. In the Tiafoe match he says "The start...was really important and I was trying to step up from the first game.
I think the first game helped me find a rhythm on his serve. The Rafa Nadal match a few years ago he said "I just kept fighting...I went for my shots in the big moments...who knows anything can happen..." It is agreed that what you do coming down through the stretch matters.
Nadal has said good stuff about Shapovalov that "..He played with the right determination in the important moments." The Canadian is encouraged about his upcoming matchup again with Djokovic and says with a bright smile "It's going to be a tough one, but I have a great game and I think I have a chance to beat him."
Most players have been in this position many times but nearly all know that when you have nothing to lose and go for it...many times if you can keep your cool...you win. Shapovalov hopes this to happen to him.