MONTREAL — Denis Shapovalov’s coach wasn’t surprised that the teenager was able to keep his head while upsetting a tennis legend on centre court at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament.
Martin Laurendeau said Friday that he saw it a year ago when Shapovalov beat Australian star Nick Kyrgios in the Rogers Cup first round in Toronto and the 18-yearold’s cool head was evident again this week with wins over 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“All the guys he’s played up to, he takes it to them,” said Laurendeau, who coaches Shapovalov and serves as Canada’s Davis Cup captain. “He revels in that kind of atmosphere. He’s like a fish in water when you put him on a big court against a big player.
“I don’t know if you can teach that, but he has that and he’s making the most of it.”
Shapovalov, of Richmond Hill, Ont., posted one of the biggest wins in Canadian tennis history when he battled Nadal for two hours 45 minutes on Thursday night and pulled out the victory in a third-set tiebreaker.
He followed that up Friday night by advancing to the tournament’s semifinals with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over France’s Adrian Mannarino.
The Nadal match was a backand-forth affair, with several break points saved on both sides. Shapovalov fell behind 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but a Nadal double fault and two aces gave the youngster the match.
At no time did the left-hander show any sign of cracking under the pressure. Instead, he fed off the
deafening sound from the sellout crowd of 11,000 that cheered every point he won.
“It’s a bit surreal to be able to, start to finish, last that long, produce quality tennis and go toe-totoe with a legend like that,” said Laurendeau. “It’s just remarkable.
“I’m glad I was there to witness it.
I’ll remember it for a long time. It will certainly be a reference for him because he still has a lot of steps to go through. That’s always going to be there for him, what he’s able to do. Just continue to work towards his goal, which is being top 100, top 50, top 10 and, one day, contend for a Grand Slam.”
Even 19-time grand slam winner Roger Federer of Switzerland was impressed watching Shapovalov on television at his hotel.
“I thought it was a fantastic match,” said Federer.
“It was exhilarating for the crowd, for the fans watching on TV, for Canadian tennis,” he added.
“I didn’t expect it to be this way. I thought that Rafa was going to win in straights,” Federer said.
“Denis did a great job. I’m really happy for him. Rafa was all class. He was great. It was a good night for tennis in some ways.”
It helped that Shapovalov had nothing to lose and could try risky shots, but so far, that seems to be part of the youngster’s success.
The superstar Federer first noticed it while watching the Canadian win the junior Wimbledon title in 2016.
“He was in all sorts of trouble,” said Federer.
“He kept going for the biggest shots: forehands, backhands and serves.”
Denis Shapovalov of Canada celebrates after defeating Adrian Mannarino of France, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, in quarter-final play at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament Friday night in Montreal. He will play the winner of Friday’s late match between fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany and Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the semifinals.