Nadal in nadir of his season

Denis Shapovalov reacting after scoring a point against Rafael Nada
Denis Shapovalov reacting after scoring a point against Rafael Nadal. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,

World No. 2 shocked by Canadian wild card Shapovalov in third round of Montreal event

MONTREAL • Top seed Rafael Nadal described his shock last-16 loss to Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov at the ATP Montreal Masters tournament on Thursday as the worst of his season.

The world No. 2 fell 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (4-7), hurting his chances of returning to the top of the rankings.

"Worst loss of the year because I lost against a player with a lower ranking," said the Spaniard, who would have returned to No. 1 for the first time in three years had he reached the semi-finals. "At the same time because of the opportunity I had to get back to No. 1."

World No. 143 Shapovalov needed a wild card to get into the tournament. But the 18-year-old showed he belongs among the elite, becoming the youngest player to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP Masters 1000 event.

"I was just swinging for the fences," said Shapovalov, who saved four match points en route to victory over Rogerio Dutra Silva in the first round and defeated former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro in the second round .

The 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 showed no sign of nerves in their first-ever meeting, playing the more aggressive tennis by utilising his huge forehand on roundhouse swings and frequently attacking the net.

He had 49 winners against 41 unforced errors while Nadal had 18 winners and 29 unforced errors.

DREAM COME TRUE

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.

DENIS SHAPOVALOV , on beating Rafael Nadal

"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 fell behind 0-3 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 and covering his face with his hands before kissing the Montreal court.

He said he did not think he had a chance to win before the match.

It was not until he levelled at one set apiece that he realised he could beat Nadal and set up a meeting with 29-year-old Frenchman Adrian Mannarino this morning (Singapore time).

"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," said the last year's Wimbledon junior champion. "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 per cent of his first-serve points but had just two aces and six double faults in the 2hr 45min match. It is a setback for the 31-year-old in his build-up to the US Open, which starts on Aug 28.

But he still has a chance to displace Andy Murray - absent here and ruled out of next week's Cincinnati Masters - at the top.

"The worst thing is playing badly in matches that really matter," he 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."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Nadal in nadir of his season'. Print Edition | Subscribe