Thursday, in the third round of the Rogers Cup, on home soil in Montreal, 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov upset Rafael Nadal of Spain on the strength of a comeback the teenager may remember for the rest of his life, ESPN reports.
Shapovalov, who hails from Richmond Hill, Ontario, took two straight sets from Nadal after dropping the first. He fell behind 3-0 in the final set tiebreak, but allowed Nadal only one more point. The final scoreline read 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
With the victory, Shapovalov became the youngest player to advance to the Rogers Cup quarterfinals since Bjorn Borg did so at the age of 18 in 1974. He is the youngest to reach the quarterfinals of a Masters since a 17-year-old Nadal beat a number-1-ranked Federer in Miami in 2004.
Perhaps the number-2-ranked Nadal, who won this year’s French Open and would have recaptured the world number 1 ranking had he advanced to the Rogers Cup semifinals, sees a little bit of himself in Shapovalov.
“He played well,” Nadal said of the young Canadian. “He has a great potential. I wish him the best. He has everything to become a great player. He played with the right determination in the important moments.”
Shapovalov relished the opportunity to play opposite the legendary Spaniard. “It’s what I dreamed of all my life growing up, playing guys like Rafa [Nadal], Roger [Federer], Andy [Murray],” Shapovalov said. “You know, my dream came true today.”
Presumably, part of that dream was not just playing against the best but beating them.
That has been commonplace for Shapovalov of late. The young gun, who has his sites set on breaking into the top 100, toppled two of the game’s top players—Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva, ranked 93rd in the world, and 31st-ranked Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina—to advance to the third-round face-off with Nadal.
It upsets the balance of the tennis universe to mention Nadal’s name without mentioning Federer’s. The Swiss legend has put together a run of his own to advance to the Rogers Cup semifinals. After a first-round bye, he coasted past Canada’s Peter Palansky in the second round. David Ferrer offered some resistance in round three, taking the first set, but Federer outlasted the Spaniard by a score of 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Federer is a perfect 17-0 against Ferrer in his career.
In the quarterfinals, Federer ousted another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Augut, in straight sets. He will face Robin Hasse of the Netherlands in the semifinals at 3:00 PM Eastern time on Saturday.
With all his recent success against Spanish opponents, Federer might be sad to see Nadal go. The two could have met in the finals.
But, Mr. Shapovalov disrupted that destiny and is well on his way to making his own. Late Friday evening, the Canadian came back to beat Adrian Mannarino of France 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to cement a place in the semifinals, where he will face the winner of Friday night’s match between Germany’s Alexander Zverev and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
If Federer prevails over Hasse and Shapovalov beats his as-yet-undetermined semifinal opponent, the two would meet in the finals on Sunday at 1:30 pm Eastern. Then, two-thirds of the teenager’s dreams of facing the three greatest players in the world would have been realized.
Lately, Federer has been playing like he was in his twenties. He’s won two grand slams this year: Wimbledon and the Australian Open. The latter championship came after a legendary victory over Nadal in five sets and change.
The Federal-Nadal rivalry which has arguably been the centerpiece of the current era of tennis was born at a Masters championship when the Spaniard was 17.
Perhaps another rivalry will be born Sunday.