The battle was going to be tough and it was tough until the middle of the third round. Denis Shapovalov got rid of the visibly diminished Rafael Nadal not without difficulty, by the score of 1-6, 7-5 and 6-2, Thursday, at the Rome tournament. Has the hour of redemption come for the Canadian?
Posted at 5:04 p.m.
Updated at 5:47 p.m.
The Roman public saw the Shapovalov of the good days on the center court, during his match in the round of 16. However, the trend was not favorable for the Ontarian, who had lost four of his five career duels against the Spaniard.
The match had started smoothly for him, as he lost 6-1 in the first set. Nothing was going for the Canadian, guilty of 17 unforced errors. Shapo knew it wasn’t going to be easy against the man who has won more than 90% of his career clay matches.
In the second set, the Canadian took over and with the support of the Italian crowd, he took a 4-1 lead. Nadal was not going to let him slip away so quickly. The Spaniard still had his throat choked by his defeat against his 19-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who had beaten him last week, in the quarter-finals, at home in Madrid.
Except Shapovalov continued to come into the net and put constant pressure on the winner of 21 Grand Slam titles and it paid off. Nadal suffered 19 unforced errors. The Canadian won the second set at 7-5.
Round three was Shapo’s business through and through. Aggressive, precise and tenacious. The 23-year-old athlete made the veteran move a lot and the latter paid the price. Going to a ball, Nadal injured his foot, the same one that kept him sidelined for several months at the end of last season. In the second half of the round, the Spaniard was limping and visibly in bad shape. Like the great champions, he still wanted to finish the match, but Shapovalov had the best at 6-2.
To this end, Nadal clarified after the meeting: “I was not injured. I am a player who has to live with injuries. That’s all. My daily life is difficult, honestly, and it is sometimes difficult to accept it. He also added that he didn’t know what his condition would look like in a week. He is clueless about the situation.
The winner of the duel explained how he found it unfortunate that the match ended this way: “It was difficult to see him in pain at the end of the match. I don’t like to see that, especially when it affects a legendary player like Rafa. He brings so much to our sport. I hope he will be fit and ready to play for the French Open. »
The Spaniard suffers from Muller-Weiss syndrome which notably leads to necrosis of the navicular bone. This rare disease is incurable and Nadal had to end his 2021 season in August due to excessive pain.
“It’s frustrating sometimes when I can’t train normally for several days,” he said Thursday. Today, it started again (to make me suffer) in the middle of the second set, and it became unbearable. »
This victory remains highly significant for Shapovalov. First, because he overcame one of his pet peeves. Then, because it is Nadal’s earliest exit from the Rome tournament since 2008. Then, because the Canadian usually has difficulty against players positioned in the top 10, as his 10-21 record demonstrates. He beat Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open in January, but otherwise since losing to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in the semi-finals last summer, Shapo’s play has been inconsistent, if not significantly below his usual level.
He will now have the chance to show everyone that he is once again fit to compete with the best in the world, as he will face Casper Ruud, 10and world player and clay court specialist, in the quarter-finals.
Auger-Aliassime and Andreescu pass
Also in action on Thursday, the other Canadians still in action in Rome have earned a spot in the quarter-finals.
Félix Auger-Aliassime defeated Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-2, but he will face Novak Djokovic on Thursday.
Bianca Andreescu has continued to impress since her return beating Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4. However, like her compatriot, she will face world number one, Iga Swiatek. The Pole has won the last four tournaments she has participated in.
Then, in women’s doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski and her partner Giuliana Olmos will also play in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Seeded second, they will face the duo composed of Chan Hao-ching and Shuko Aoyama, seeded eighth.