The Rogers Cup in Montreal turned into a Davis Cup atmosphere with fiery play from its newest hero Denis Shapovalov. The 18-year-old has conquered Juan Martin del Potro, Rafael Nadal and continued his dream run to a Masters 1000 semifinal. Oh, Canada!
Denis Shapovalov has made history: The youngest player to reach the semis of ATP 1000 event. pic.twitter.com/Fsbzng4wB1— Sean Coleman (@SColemanUFA) August 12, 2017
He’s a wiry tornado, scrambling all over the court and unafraid to miss shots. Big points merely fuel his passion, and he’s right at home on Centre Court pumping his fist or throwing his hands in the air to call for more crowd noise. What in the name of Jimmy Connors is going on? Maybe this turnaround backhand is a clue.
Shapovalov was a talented prospect a year ago when he defeated Nick Kyrgios in the Rogers Cup first round as a wild card. He was the No. 2 juniors player in the world winning the Wimbledon boys title, and he’s already played Davis Cup tennis. Unfortunately, that was also his low point in early February. He was disqualified for angrily swatting a ball that hit the umpire’s face.
That may have been a century ago. The Nadal win was an overnight sensation that seemed to rise from the ashes. Now he’s looking to move his ATP ranking from No. 143 to 67 or better after a few clutch matches.
Shapovalov told me on-court there wasn't a point during the day that he thought he could beat Nadal. Then broke him in the 2nd set, and...— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) August 11, 2017
He fought off a match point in the first round, battled back from a set down against the Spanish legend and followed up with another comeback to defeat Adrian Mannarino for a berth in the semifinals.
“I’ve been against the wall a couple times this week. I'm very happy I've come out several times just playing really good tennis in those situations," Shapovalov said in an ATP World Tour interview. "I think it really shows how I've improved mentally along with just finding my game at the right moments."
Maybe Nadal best summed up what is special about Denis the Menace.
It’s also astounding that while Nadal was winning the Rogers Cup in 2008, Shapovalov was a nine-year old ball boy looking up at his idol.
Or maybe the young boy with the long, blond locks was christened to be his own kind of star. He had the greatest and most beloved Canadian athlete of all time watching him defeat Nadal on Thursday night. Yes, the Great One clapped and cheered, perhaps unaware that his career’s swan song coincided with the birth of today’s Denis tennis.
Is it possible that Shapovalov upsets Next Gen standard Alexander Zverev and faces Roger Federer in the final? Montreal’s tennis faithful will pack the house to see if the miracle continues.