Last night in Montreal, an 18 year-old tennis player from Richmond Hill, Ontario, beat one of the greatest tennis players of all time, World Number 2 ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain. His name is Denis Shapovalov and this is what his match point looked like (that's him in the red)...
While he didn't end up kissing everyone in the stadium the way that this announcer suggested (smart move, Denis), the love between player and crowd was obvious. They just watched a young Canadian score a come-from-behind win over one of the most difficult opponents that tennis has ever seen.
In that moment, he saved what had so far been a pretty disappointing week for Canada's annual traditional tennis showcase.
A Masters-ful performance
You see, there are two big tennis tournaments happening in Canada right now, both known as the Rogers Cup. In Toronto, the WTA, or women's pro tour, is holding a Premier level event. Meanwhile in Montreal, the ATP, or men's tour, is holding one of its nine Masters tournaments.
Before last night, the homegrown talent wasn't doing very well. Top-ranked Canadians Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard both lost badly in their opening matches. And less recognizable names, like Vasek Pospisil, or up-and-comers Francoise Abanda and Bianca Andreescu, didn't fare much better. It looked like curtains for the Canucks... except for this Shapovalov kid.
Denis had already beaten former U.S. Open champion and Olympic Silver medallist Juan Martin del Potro in his last match. Not bad. But next he was facing Rafael. No way will he beat him, said experts and fans alike. He's an exciting young player, but let's not get ahead of ourselves!
But then an amazing, inspiring thing happened. Denis did win. And he didn't just catch his opponent on a bad day. In fact, Rafael was ahead and comfortable in the match at many points. But the Canadian's will and ability was too much this evening for the great Spaniard. Now, Shapovalov is into Friday's quarterfinal matches, where he'll play France's Adrian Mannarino (who defeated Raonic on Wednesday).
And while you'd be very correct to say that upsets happen, this is an especially meaningful one. In winning the match, Denis became:
- The youngest player in the Canadian tournaments quarterfinal since Swedish legend Bjorn Borg in 1974
- The youngest Masters Series quarter-finalist ever
- And the youngest person to beat a top two-ranked player since Roger Federer was beaten in 2004 by, you guessed it... Rafael Nadal
As for Rafael, he was disappointed. If he had made it to Montreal's semi-finals, he would have taken over the world number one ranking from Great Britain's Andy Murray. But Nadal is as gracious off the court as he is fierce on it.
"[Denis] played well," he said after the match. "He has a great potential. I wish him the best. He has everything to become a great player."
Tennis experts agree, some saying they believe that Denis has the potential to be a world number one himself one day. But hey, one match at a time. Speaking of which...
Good luck tonight, Denis!