Denis Shapovalov wins first ATP title at Stockholm Open
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Rafael Nadal has admitted he isn’t surprised that Alexander Zverev lost to Denis Shapovalov on Sunday. The Spaniard and the world No 3 were on a collision course to meet in the quarter-final. But it will now be a fifth meeting between Nadal and the young Canadian after Shapovalov beat the Olympic champion in straight sets during the round-of-16.
Nadal booked his place in a 14th Australian Open quarter-final earlier on Sunday, defeating Adrian Mannarino 7-6(14) 6-2 6-2 in a two hour 40 minute match that included a 28 minute first-set tiebreak.
While he was sealing his third win over the Frenchman, Shapovalov was overpowering the world No 3 over on Margaret Court Arena.
The 22-year-old, who had only won two of six previous meetings with Zverev, produced an impressive performance to make his first ever quarter-final Down Under with a 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over the Olympic gold medallist.
It meant that Zverev was denied the chance to play the 20-time Grand Slam champion, after the pair had been projected to face off in the last-eight based on ranking.
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Speaking on court before Shapovalov closed out his fourth-round victory, Nadal was already full of praise for the world No 14.
“Denis Shapovalov is a player with a lot of potential. When he is on, it’s hard to stop him,” he said in his post-match interview, before finding out which of the two young stars he’d be facing.
Zverev had been one of the favourites to lift the title, especially in the absence of Novak Djokovic, having won two big hard court titles last season at the Olympics and ATP Finals, but Nadal admitted he wasn’t surprised to see the German knocked out before the quarter-final stage when asked in his press conference.
“Not [surprised] that much. I mean, he was a bit favorite probably because of his ranking, but was not a clear favorite, Sascha in that match, no?” the 2009 Aussie Open champion said.
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“Everybody knows, as I said before, how good is Denis when he’s playing well. So of course you didn’t expect a three-sets victory, but that what happened.
“I didn’t see the match, of course, but that said, of course, Denis played a great game. I don’t know if Sascha played well or not, but even considering Sascha was not playing fantastic today, to win in straight sets against Sascha is because he played a fantastic match, no?
“Surprise? Very little. Honestly, no, it was not a clear match at all.”
The victory was also Shapovalov’s second-ever over a top five player, with his first coming against Nadal in his breakout performance at the Montreal Masters 1000 back in 2017, when he beat the then-world No 2 in a final set tiebreak as a wildcard ranked outside the world’s top 140.
Looking back on their first meeting, Nadal said: “Was a tough one, that one, I remember because I was playing for the No. 1.
“He played great. Honestly, he was very young and he played with amazing intensity and creating amazing shots. Yeah, as everybody knows, is one of the players with the biggest potential on the tour.”
He also made a bold claim, hailing the 22-year-old as a future multiple Grand Slam champion, echoing his words from their meeting in Canada four and a half years ago.
“I mean, when I played against him, after the match I said he gonna be potential multi-Grand Slam winner. And I still think that if he’s able to keep improving, he will be a multi-Grand Slam winner, no?” the 20-time Major champion predicted.
“He has a lot of amazing things on his game, and his results says that. When he’s playing well, it’s very difficult to stop him.
“You can see today against a great player like Sascha, straight sets, if he’s able to play regular in terms of his level, yeah, gonna be a potential very high-ranking player.
“Gonna be a tough one for me. But I in quarterfinals, what to expect, no? I mean, is a match to try my best, to play at my highest level if I want to have chances to go through. And, yeah, I’m excited about it, honestly, no? I didn’t expect to be where I am weeks ago.”
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