The Grandstand has compiled its list of the Top 10 Matches of the Year for 2017. Matches were ranked from a combination of Top 10 lists made by the Grandstand’s Ricky Dimon, Joey Hanf of Cliff Drysdale Tennis, voting at MensTennisForums, and Twitter user Ben Conti.
No. 9: Denis Shapovalov d. Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), Montreal Masters third round
This one probably should never have happened–and Nadal fans wish that was the case. In round one of the Rogers Cup, Shapovalov had to save four match points against unheralded opponent Rogerio Dutra Silva. The 18-year-old Canadian did just that, fighting off two on Dutra Silva’s serve and two on his own serve–one with an ace and another with an incredible backhand volley off his shoelaces. Shapovalov went on to survive that encounter 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 before upsetting Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4) in the second round.
Thus the stage was set for what proved to be something even more dramatic than Shapovalov’s entertaining opener.
Like he did in the round of 64, Shapovalov did extremely well amidst the pressure of playing from behind. After dropping the first set, he broke early in the second and had points for a 5-1 advantage. Despite seeing Nadal claw back for 4-4, Shapovalov produced a clutch hold for a 5-4 lead and then broke to force a third.
In the decider, the teenager fought off three break points at 1-1 and eventually played his way into a tiebreaker. Nadal raced to a 3-0 advantage, but the rest of the way it was all Shapovalov. The Canadian crowd was sent into one final frenzy when their man cracked a down-the-line forehand winner to clinch by far the biggest win of his career.
“It’s so tough; a lot of the times he just hits a shot that’s way too good,” Shapovalov said of Nadal. “I was managing to get a lot back when I could. But, you know, he’s honestly the best player I’ve ever played in my life. You could tell why he’s won so many Grand Slams. His ball was just so heavy. He’s such a warrior out there. So it’s honestly like a dream come true for me to beat a player like that.
“I don’t know if a lot of players fold or if he just outplays them at the end. I was down 3-0 in the tiebreak; I did a good job to regroup…. I just tried to stay calm, tried to play every point, (and) go for my shots. At the end of the day, I really tried to keep playing my game and stick to my tactics.”
It’s safe to say that worked out pretty well for the kid.