“I couldn’t believe it actually happened,” Shapovalov said. “It’s tough to explain the emotions that were going through my head at that moment. But it was just pure happiness.”
Men’s tennis this season has been dominated by Nadal, 31, and Roger Federer, who turned 36 on Tuesday. Shapovalov, however, proved capable of handling himself on the big stage. His relentlessness and power were on display throughout the evening. Shapovalov fired nine aces compared to Nadal’s two. Several of his serves topped 124 miles per hour. He hit 49 winners, more than double Nadal’s 18.
Nadal praised Shapovalov’s energy after the match.
“He played with the right determination in the important moments,” Nadal said.
Nadal called it a win-win match for Shapovalov, who had beaten another Grand Slam champion, Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina, on Wednesday.
Shapovalov did not slow down on Friday, defeating Adrian Mannarino of France, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the quarterfinals on Friday night. He will face fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany on Saturday.
“I’ve been against the wall a couple times this week and I’m very happy I’ve come out several times just playing really good tennis in those situations,” Shapovalov said after the win on Friday. “I think it really shows how I’ve improved mentally, along with just finding my game at the right moments.”
Before Thursday, Shapovalov was perhaps best known for a critical mistake. In a Davis Cup match against Britain in February, he accidentally hit the umpire in the face with a ball and was defaulted, allowing Britain to advance to the next round.
Shapovalov, who was born in Tel Aviv but moved to Canada as an infant, started playing tennis when he was 5 at the club where his mother, Tessa Shapovalova, worked.
A former professional player herself, Shapovalov’s mother later opened her own tennis academy in Vaughan, Ontario, outside Toronto. It served as a base for Shapovalov, who resisted the pressure to move to the National Training Center in Montreal. His mother is still one of his coaches.
After winning junior tournaments in Ontario, he experienced similar successes at International Tennis Federation junior events around the world. In October 2015, when he was 16, Shapovalov helped Canada secure its first Junior Davis Cup title. Seven months later, he advanced to the semifinals at the French Open junior tournament. Then at Wimbledon, he became the third Canadian to win a junior Grand Slam title, when he defeated Alex De Minaur of Australia in three sets.
This season, Shapovalov has played ATP Tour events big and small. In March he lost in the final of the Jalisco Open in Guadalajara, Mexico. He was then eliminated either in the first round or in qualifying of his next five consecutive tournaments, including the French Open. Before the Rogers Cup, Shapovalov reached the final in both of the Challenger tournaments he played, winning the title in Gatineau.
Nadal, similarly, reached the semifinals in boys singles at Wimbledon when he was 16. He also helped Spain to win a Junior Davis Cup title. And as a teenager Nadal also beat a top-ranked player, stunning Roger Federer in the third round of the Miami Open in 2004.
After Thursday’s match, Shapovalov tipped his cap to Nadal, now the veteran.
“He’s such a warrior out there,” said Shapovalov, who, like Nadal, plays left-handed. “So it’s honestly like a dream come true for me to beat a player like that.”
Nadal, who could have returned to the No. 1 ranking by reaching the semifinals here, was asked if Shapovalov reminded him of his own journey through pro tennis.
“In my opinion it is much more easy when you are 18 than when you are 30,” Nadal said. “He has nothing to lose.”
A Canadian Defeats Nadal on Canada’s Biggest Tennis Stage – New York Times