Denis Shapovalov reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open while scoring one of the best wins of his career by dispatching the third seed Alexander Zverev in straight sets in what was only his third victory over the German in seven meetings.
Off the ground I was playing really well, feeling my shots off both wings. I played pretty smart today and I felt things were going my way early on plus a little bit of momentum in the second set I did well to come back and I kind of rolled with it afterwards. Denis Shapovalov
It will be his first appearance in the last eight at Melbourne where he will face Rafa Nadal, the former champion, who survived one of the longest tie-breaks before progressing as expected.
But it was the Canadian’s victory which headlines the seventh day at the AO, as his win means that not only has one of the title favourites been removed, it has, once again, crushed the German’s hopes of winning his first major title.
Shapovalov required three-hours and 22-minutes to record a 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 upset with 35 winners and three aces, breaking Zverev’s serve four times, and become only the third male Canuck to reach the last eight in Melbourne after Milos Raonic (2016) and Mike Belkin (1968).
Shapovalov started strongly by saving two break points in the opening game but then turned the tables to break for 2-1 which proved enough to pocket the set.
The 22-year-old from Toronto then extended his lead with an early break but Zverev broke back to level at 2-2 and then pulled into a 5-3 lead but failed to serve out as the 14th seed hit back to force a tie-break.
There Shapovalov jumped into a 5-1 lead which was enough to provide him with a buffer to secure the second set.
Up two sets to love Shapovalov maintained his high level of play in the third, using his swinging leftie serve to great effect, as well as his forehand, took an early 2-0 lead from which a dispirited Zverev was unable to recover.
“It is always nice to finish in three but unfortunately that is not always the case,” a very satisfied Shapovalov said afterwards.
“It’s probably what I least expected, to finish in three, so I’m very happy with my performance and where my game is at.
“Off the ground I was playing really well, feeling my shots off both wings. I played pretty smart today and I felt things were going my way early on plus a little bit of momentum in the second set I did well to come back and I kind of rolled with it afterwards.”
His next opponent might prove to be a tougher nut to crack, Rafa Nadal, who seems to be revitalised since returning to the tour after a five-month lay-off with a foot injury.
“It’s always an honour to go up against a guy like Rafa,” Shapovalov said when asked how felt about facing the Spanish icon.
“We played not too long ago in an exhibition in completely different conditions, completely different match but it’s always fun and will always be a battle against him.
“It’s going to be a tough one and I’m definitely going to enjoy it.”
Tough is Nadal’s middle name as he proved in his latest win to reach the last eight, surviving a marathon first set tie-break to maintain his chase for a record 21st singles grand slam title.
He was pushed all the way by Adrian Mannarino in the first set which was only resolved in the Spaniard’s favour after 28-minutes, 16-14!
That broke the Frenchman’s spirit who, in the overpowering 33 degree Celcius Melbourne heat, succumbed 7-6 6-2 6-2 after two-hours and 40-minutes, including 85-minutes for the first set.
“First set was very emotional,” said the 35-year-old Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open champion, who pumped his fists vigorously after emerging from that tie-break.
“Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end. I had chances (but) he had a lot of chances too.
“I’m very happy I survived that first set, without a doubt. That crazy first set was so important,” he added on reaching his 14th AO quarter-final to draw level in second place with John Newcombe for the most QFs reached in Australia, behind Roger Federer’s 15.
It’s also the Spaniard’s 45th QF at a Grand Slam tournament, which is third on the all-time list behind Federer (58) and Novak Djokovic (51).
In evening action later, the flamboyant 35-year-old and 17th seed Gael Monfils, unbeaten this year after winning a warm-up event in Adelaide, ousted the unseeded Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, 6-4 6-7(8) 6-2 7-5 to reach his second quarter-final at the Australian Open and the first for six years.
“I tried to be very aggressive. Tried to not let him dictate the point, I served quite well. Then was just a battle, battling and hanging in there,” the Parisian said.
“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m quite happy, but it’s not finished. I want to do better and I will try. We’re not quite finished yet.”
He next faces the powerful Matteo Berrettini, the seventh seed from Italy, who came through a tough match with Pablo Carreno Busta 7-5 7-6(4) 6-4.
“Matteo, I lost a quarterfinal in the US Open against him, 7-6 in the fifth (2019)” Monfils recollected but he promises to be ready for him.