The battle was going to be tough and it was tough until the middle of the third round. Denis Shapovalov got rid of Rafael Nadal with difficulty on Thursday at the Rome tournament. Has the hour of redemption come for the Canadian?

For the first time in quite some time, we saw the heyday Shapovalov on center court again, in his Round of 16 match. 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 well for him, as he lost 6-1 in the first set. Nothing was going well for the Canadian, who provoked by less than 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 the lead 4 to 1. Nadal was not going to let him slip away so quickly. The Spaniard still had his throat choked with his defeat against his 19-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who had inflicted defeat on 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 got the veteran moving a lot and the veteran paid the price. Going to a ball, Nadal injured his foot, the same one he had kept out 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.

This victory is highly significant for Shapovalov. First, because he overcame one of his pet peeves. Then, because it’s Nadal’s earliest exit from the Rome tournament since 2008. Then, because the Canadian usually has difficulty against players positioned in the top 10, like his 10-21 record. demonstrates it. 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 Rudd, world No. 10 player and clay court specialist, in the quarter-finals.


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