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MONTREAL — Forget all the talk about Denis Shapovalov being the future of Canadian tennis.
The 18-year-old from Richmond Hill., Ont., has already arrived.
Shapovalov reached the quarter-finals of the $4.9-million Rogers Cup Canadian Open men’s tennis championships Thursday, going toe-to-toe with top-seeded Rafael Nadal and emerging with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory. The two left-handers battled for two hours and 46 minutes.
Shapovalov, the youngest player in the top 200, has been making his mark on the second-tier Challenger circuit, but his performance this week shows he has no respect for his elders. He reached the third round with wins over Rogerio Dutra Silva and 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. With the win, Shapovalov should crack the top 100 in the rankings for the first time. next week He could go as high as No. 66 if he wins his quarter-final match against Adrian Mannarino. They will play on centre court at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
A single service break provided Nadal with the first set, but the young Canadian was just getting warmed up.
On two occasions in the second set, Shapovalov fell behind 0-30 on his serve, but he responded by winning four consecutive points. At 4-4, he pulled even with two aces, one of them clocked at 133 miles an hour. He was broken in the seventh game, but Shapovalov broke Nadal’s serve a second time at 4-5 to secure the second set.
Shapovalov’s serve let him down at 1-1 in the third set when he double-faulted three times and faced three break points. But he persevered to win a game that went to deuce 10 times. The players then held serve throughout the set to force a deciding tiebreaker.
Nadal had a mini-break on the first point of the tiebreaker, but gave it back with a double-fault for 3-3 and Shapovalov earned his first match point when Nadal netted a backhand to fall behind 6-4. Shapovalov won it on the next point with a forehand winner down the line. Shapovalov recorded two of his nine aces in the tiebreaker.
Shapovalov played an aggressive game throughout and had 49 winners and 41 unforced errors. Nadal had only 18 winners and 29 unforced errors.
Shapovalov fought off nine of 11 break points and Nadal said he wasn’t surprised the youngster went for big shots on those points.
“He has nothing to lose. Is win-win for him,” said Nadal, who needed to reach the semifinals here to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the rankings. “If he loses playing a good match, was good for him. If he lose in straight sets, already he played a good tournament. If he wins, he’s amazing. He won. Is amazing for him. Just well done for him. Is a great story, (but) I am not happy to be part of this story.
Shapovalov became the youngest quarter-finalist in the history of the ATP Masters 1000 series, which began in 1990.
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