Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov shocked top seeded Rafael Nadal to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP Montreal Masters tournament, temporarily spoiling the Spaniard’s chances of returning to world number one.
The 18-year-old Shapovalov continued his giant killing form at the hardcourt tournament by rallying to stun Nadal in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) on Thursday.
“I was just swinging for the fences,” said Shapovalov, who needed a wild card to get into the tournament.
The 31-year-old Nadal would have returned to No. 1 in the world if he had reached the semi-finals.
But Nadal struggled to get the ball to Shapovalov’s backhand and didn’t have an answer for the Canadian’s blistering forehand winners.
Nadal described it as the worst loss of the season for him for a number of reasons.
“Worst loss of the year because I lost against a player with a lower ranking,” Nadal said. “At the same time because of the opportunity I had to get back to Number One.”
Shapovalov’s biggest win of his young career against the 15-time Grand Slam winner came as a result of some inspired tennis in front of a boisterous home crowd who cheered his every shot.
“He won. It is an amazing for him. It is a great story. I am not happy to be part of this story,” Nadal said.
Shapovalov, who is ranked 143rd in the world, quickly got on a roll in Montreal, beating Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva in the opening round 4-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4. He then defeated former US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round in straight sets 6-3 7-6 (7/4) to set up the showdown with Nadal.
Shapovalov fell behind 3-0 before winning seven of the final eight points of the third set tiebreaker. He closed out the match with a forehand winner down the line and celebrated by falling onto his back then covering his face with his hands.
Nadal easily won the first set but couldn’t put the free-swinging Canadian away with a second set victory.
The third game of the second set lasted 14 minutes with Shapovalov finally holding serve when Nadal’s volley sailed into the net. Shapovalov managed to win the game despite double faulting three times.
“Was it only 14 minutes?,” Shapovalov asked. “It felt like three hours.
“I just kept fighting. I knew it was going to be really tough. I went for my shots in the big moments and I caught a couple of lines got a little bit lucky.”
Shapovalov said he didn’t think he had a chance to win at all before the match. It wasn’t until he levelled the sets at one each that he realized he could beat the 10-time French Open champion.
“The whole day I was like – there’s no chance. I will go and have fun but there is no way I am beating this guy,” Shapovalov said.
“I went up a break in the second set early and even though he broke me back I felt like – OK, I am capable of breaking him.
“So when I won that second set I thought let’s go one more set and who knows, anything can happen.”
After that remarkable result, it's getting pretty tight at the top...— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 11, 2017
1. Murray - 7750
2. Nadal - 7555
3. Federer - 6725*
*7545 with title pic.twitter.com/Ate9AUgyjc
Shapovalov blasted a total of nine aces. He also had seven double faults and won 67 percent of his first serve points.
“It is 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 but to come out winning is a dream come true for me.”
Nadal won 77 percent of his first serve points, but had just two aces and six double faults in the two hour, 45 minute center court match.
This is a setback for Nadal in the buildup to the US Open starting August 28 but he still has a chance to regain No. 1.
“The worst thing is playing bad in matches that really matter,” Nadal said. “You have to win these matches. I didn’t today. I have another week in Cincinnati and then I have the Grand Slam coming.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, Roger Federer maintained his career-long winning streak over David Ferrer with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory to reach the quarter-finals after a three-set battle with the veteran Spaniard.
In other matches Thursday, Germany’s Alexander Zverev defeated Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 6-3, Roberto Bautista outlasted Gael Monfils 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/2) and Kevin Anderson of South Africa cruised past Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-1.
Rafael Nadal and Juan Monaco go to Ibiza, hang out on a boat, and chat life, tennis and everything in between. Sounds like a great TV show, right? Well it actually is!
The two long-time friends spent time together in Ibiza recently, where Monaco, who recently retired and is a co-host on the Argentinean talk show ‘Con Amigos Asi‘ got to interview Nadal, who enjoyed some R&R at sea following his Wimbledon fourth round exit to Gilles Muller.
Monaco asked Nadal if he saw the remainder of this season as a head-to-head battle with Roger Federer. Nadal is No1 in the ATP Race to London but Federer is close behind, having claimed a second major of the season, winning Wimbledon earlier this month.
The pair of veterans have hit peak form in 2017, rolling back the years, and have split the first three majors of the season between them.
“The truth is, I always follow my own path,” Nadal told Monaco.
“It’s true that we (Roger and I) are better prepared to compete for nice things at the end of the year but it depends on what we’re able to do from now until the end of the year. We’ll have to wait and see.
“The person who will be able to keep his high level for a longer period of time will have more options to fight for the world No1 ranking. But the same can be said of (Andy) Murray or (Novak) Djokovic and many others who are up there. Maybe they haven’t had the best six months this year but they are also candidates.”
Monaco got Nadal to talk about his private life and whether the Mallorcan was thinking of starting a family soon with his long-time girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello, now that he’s passed the 30-year-old mark.
“You’re older than I am,” Nadal laughed, referring to the fact that Monaco himself is 33 yet unmarried.
Nadal added: “I would love to have children, boys, girls… I’m a person who loves kids and I’m a family guy.”
While he has no immediate plans for starting family, Nadal says he imagines he would do so after he retires from tennis as he feels the life of too much travel is not necessarily an ideal one for kids.
Switching to tennis, Monaco asked Nadal how he’s been able to return to his best level this season, and claim a 10th Roland Garros and sit atop of the ATP Race.
“The first thing is to maintain your ambition to do so, that’s the key,” said the world No2.
“Also my body, for a few months now, has been (cooperating), without that, it would have been practically impossible (to compete at a high level).
“And the truth is, last year I was at a high level before I got injured. I was in a position to go to Roland Garros and try and win it. I’m not saying I would have won it, but I was ready to compete to win it, but it wasn’t meant to be. 2015 was a tough year mentally but after that I believed I could recover my level.”
Does Nadal find himself being extra careful now of his body compared to when he was younger?
“Obviously I am being more careful now than I was when I was younger. When I was younger, we didn’t know that, as young ones, we’re complicated and are doing a terrible job at taking care of ourselves. As you get older, you have the choice to be more conscious of everything needed to try to keep doing what you like,” he explained.
You can watch the full interview below (Spanish).
Rafael Nadal will set his sights on winning a 10th French Open title, after a day of “fishing or golf”, following his shock defeat to Dominic Thiem in the Rome Masters quarter-finals on Friday.
Nadal, a former seven-time champion in the Italian capital, had dominated the Austrian to win the Madrid Masters final last week.
But the Spanish fourth seed had no answer to the eighth seed’s aggressive approach and impressive range of shots on a shocked centre court as Thiem raced to a 6-4, 6-3 victory in 1hr 51 minutes, ending Nadal’s 17-match winning run.
Thiem will now meet the winner of the quarter-final clash between four-time winner Novak Djokovic, seeded second, and unseeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro.
Nadal, meanwhile, said he intends to have a free weekend before ramping up his preparations for Roland Garros from Monday.
“Tomorrow I’ll be in Mallorca fishing or playing golf, or another thing. I’m going to rest a little bit, I think I deserve it,” said Nadal.
“Then from Monday and Tuesday I will start to prepare for Roland Garros. It’s an important event for me.”
“If you do things well, you have more chances in Roland Garros. I hope to play my best tennis in Roland Garros.”
"Very happy about the way that I played in the four weeks" - Nadal, will get some well deserved rest before his preparations for RG begin.— René Denfeld (@Renestance) May 19, 2017
Nadal, given a first round bye, played only three games of his second round match with Nicolas Almagro before his unseeded compatriot retired injured on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old made amends for his comparative lack of playing time with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Jack Sock on Thursday.
But from the outset against Thiem, Nadal looked in trouble.
The Austrian’s serve, precision and movement were near flawless and soon had Nadal hitting shots wide of the mark.
As the centre court crowd steadily got behind the 23-year-old upstart, Nadal’s confidence waned.
Before the two-hour mark, Thiem avenged his Madrid Masters defeat, breaking Nadal in their final game when the Spaniard hit a wayward return.
Q: "Rafa, what was wrong today?"— Giulio Fedele (@fedele_giulio) May 19, 2017
Nadal: "What was wrong is that the other player played very well"
“I didn’t play very well,” added Nadal. “I want to congratulate him because he was better than me this afternoon.”
“Great, in all aspects. He played long, he played very aggressive, hitting the ball very strong with high intensity.”
“In general I was not able to push him back. He got a lot of points, maximum, more times than me. And that’s the key of this game. It’s obvious I didn’t play my best match.”
Nadal suggested the intensity of a clay court season that has seen him play his best tennis on the surface for the past two years had been to blame.
“I’ve been playing a lot. It’s difficult, every day. Madrid then Rome back-to-back, after Barcelona.”
“It’s not easy playing every day for the last four weeks.”