Rafael Nadal had a rough season behind him, winning two titles but dealing with injuries and wrapping up the year after Washington due to a foot injury. Nadal’s bot titles came on clay, and he had to work hard to earn them, fending off a match point against Stefanos Tsitsipas in that epic Barcelona final and two more versus Denis Shapovalov in Rome. In the Madrid quarter-final, Rafa lost to Alexander Zverev and could have experienced another early exit in Rome against the young Canadian in the third round. The Canadian defeated the Spaniard as a teenager in 2017 at home in Montreal and had a massive chance to repeat that at Foro Italico in May. Shapovalov wasted two match points in the deciding set’s 12th game in a heartbreaking 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 loss after three hours and 27 minutes! Speaking after the match, Denis admitted it was a tough loss to accept. Shapovalov reminded that Rafa did the exact thing many times in the past, against various rivals.
Rafael Nadal needed three and a half hours to beat Denis Shapovalov.
Praising the Spaniard, the Canadian said that Rafa played on a high level when it mattered the most to cross the finish line first and avoid defeat. The youngster was happy with how he performed, declaring he would sleep well that night, knowing he gave his everything. Denis hit 40 winners and 45 unforced errors, playing brave tennis and staying in touch with Rafa in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. Nadal did not play well in the opener, suffering three breaks and finding himself 3-0 down in set number two! Facing the elimination, Rafa claimed six of the last seven games to turn the tables and force a decider. Starting all over, Shapovalov earned a 3-1 advantage in the final set that did not last long, as Nadal pulled the break back to prolong the battle. The Spaniard wasted three break chances at 5-5 before facing those two match points in the next one, repelling them and clinching the tie break 7-3 after forcing Denis’ error.
“It’s a tough loss. It’s not the first time Rafa’s done this, and I’m not the first person to lose against him after having match points. Rafa deals with pressure efficiently in those pivotal moments. Still, I’m pleased how I performed and will not have troubles sleeping tonight,” Denis Shapovalov said.