Game, set, match, Denis Shapovalov.”
Less than 24 hours later, the tennis world is still stunned: 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov defeated Rafael Nadal, one of the best players in the history of the game, on Centre Court filled to the rafters.
The decibel level must have come dangerously close to physically tolerable limit for humans. On Thursday night, someone in the press box joked that he hoped the noise from the stadium wasn’t heard all the way in St-Lambert because it was getting late.
Shapovalov’s surprise victory over Nadal (3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4)) is one that many will remember. Indeed, it is among the greatest performances by a Canadian player in Montréal.
There was the 2003 showdown between Simon Larose and the mythical Gustavo Kuerten at what was then known as the Canadian Open. Larose ousted his opponent, who happened to be 300 ranking spots ahead of him.
Four years earlier, when the tournament was the du Maurier Open, Sébastien Lareau routed world no.7 and 5th seed Richard Krajicek in three sets (4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4).
Martin Laurendeau, who currently coaches Shapovalov and played on the Tour, remembers those important matches. He puts the prodigy’s win in the very same category.
“I was there for Stéphane Bonneau versus Jakob Hlasek. And for Nestor versus Edberg in Davis Cup. Those are incredible moments,” affirmed Laurendeau on Friday. “But on Thursday night, there was magic in the stadium. Often, during the second evening match, people start thinking about leaving after the first set because they have to be at work in the morning. Yesterday, they could have left at 6-3 thinking that it would be like the second set and beat the crowds at the exit. But those who stayed didn’t regret it. They helped make it an extraordinary sporting experience. Even Wayne Gretzky was really into it, just like when we watch Stanley Cup matches as fans. It was an unforgettable moment.”
Even Roger Federer, who had left Uniprix Stadium by the time Shapovalov’s match got underway and watched the battle on TV in his hotel room, said that he enjoyed seeing the young Canadian play: “I watched the entire match. It was fabulous. It was fantastic for the fans here in Montréal and across Canada and for Denis. He really played an amazing match. He kept attacking. Yes, he had nothing to lose but Rafa will never give you a match. You always have to take it. Denis did that, and it’s fabulous for him and for tennis. For a young 18-year-old to win against a legend like Rafa, it’s always great for tennis.”