The Canadian just couldn’t get the knockout blow against the player widely regarded as the best clay court competitor in history.
Spain star Rafael Nadal rallied after a break-up in the second and third sets to beat Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in a third round thriller at the Italian Open that took lasted three hours 27 minutes.
“That’s why he won so many matches on clay,” Shapovalov said. “I mean obviously he’s a great player. There is no doubt about it. Just difficult. “
13 times French Open champion and 20 times Grand Slam winner, Nadal has also won the Italian Open nine times. He is 456-42 all-time on clay.
Nadal has now won 19 games in a row against lefties – his last loss to a lefty was in 2017 when he lost to then-18-year-old Shapovalov at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, a result that put the Canadiens on in the national projector.
Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., Has appeared in the Italian Open without winning more than one game in his last four events. He was eliminated each time by lower ranked players.
“These matches, you have nothing to lose,” Shapovalov said of Nadal. “In tennis, I don’t know, we are lucky. In the UFC, you have a chance to fight the best. In tennis, you have a lot of chances. “
“Of course, in that kind of sense it’s great to have these opportunities. You go out, play with nothing to lose. Who’s going to give me bullshit for losing to Rafa? Of course, it helps to play freely.
“I also think I have the game, I have what it takes to beat these guys. This is no surprise to me. It’s just a tough loss. Of course, this is not the first time Rafa has done this. I am not the first. no one to lose with match points. Of course he does well with the pressure at these times. “
13th seed Shapovalov failed to convert with two match points on Nadal’s serve with a 6-5 lead in the third set.
In the second set, Shapovalov led 3-1 and had a 40-0 serve lead in the next game before second-seeded Nadal returned for a break to return to the game.
Shapovalov had the advantage over the winners (41-29) and the aces (12-2).
Nadal is now 3-2 against Shapovalov, with one of the Canadiens’ wins following a walkover.
“Of course there are a lot of positives,” Shapovalov said. “In the end, I lost, so that’s it. However, this week is much better than the previous weeks in terms of level. This is how athletes are. If you lose, you lose. It is not very positive. “
It was the second longest best-of-three game on the ATP Tour this season. Nadal needed 3:38 to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final last month.
“(It’s) an important win for me,” Nadal said. “(To) be able to win matches like today, three hours 27, in Barcelona, three hours 40, 38, long matches. Being able to win these kinds of matches against young players gives me confidence in my body. It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow. “
Meanwhile, Montrealer Felix Auger-Aliassime lost 7-6 (3), 6-1 to Argentina qualifier Federico Delbonis in another third round game on Thursday.
In women’s doubles, Sharon Fichman of Toronto and her Mexican partner Giuliana Olmos beat seed Elise Mertens of Belgium and Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 1-6, 6-1 (10-4) in the round of 16. final.
Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and her American partner Asia Muhammad lost 7-6 (2), 6-2 to American Coco Gauff and Russian Veronika Kudermetova in another round of 16 match.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 13, 2021.