Rafael Nadal had a challenging 2021 campaign. For the first time in a few years, the Spaniard slid out of the top spots, and he only participated in two matches after Roland Garros. The king of clay, whose most famous victory came a few weeks before at Foro Italico, lost the Roland Garros championship to Novak Djokovic.
When Rafa faced Denis Shapovalov in the third round of the Rome Masters, he might have been eliminated early. In 2017 in Montreal, the Canadian teenager overcame the Spanish opponent. In the Italian capital four years later, he had a fantastic opportunity to do that again.
After a torturous three hours and 27 minutes, Shapovalov lost heartbreakingly 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after squandering two match points in the 12th game of the deciding set! Denis acknowledged the loss was difficult to accept, as was to be expected. Nevertheless, he claimed that neither the result nor Nadal‘s tenacity were a surprise because he has demonstrated both many times before when facing different opponents.
In Rome in 2021, Rafael Nadal defeated Denis Shapovalov in three and a half hours.
The Canadian praised Rafa, saying that he performed well when it counted most to prevent a loss. The kid was pleased with his performance and said he would sleep well that night knowing he gave it his all.
Denis played daring tennis, scoring 40 aces and 45 unforced errors, keeping up with Rafa in the close-range and medium-range rallies. Nadal struggled in the first set, giving up three breaks and falling behind 3-0 in the second set!
Rafa turned the tables and forced a decider by winning six of the following seven games when facing elimination. Shapovalov gained a 3-1 lead after a fresh start, but Nadal quickly pulled the break back to extend the struggle.
At 5-5, the Spaniard missed three opportunities to take the lead before facing two match points in the following game. After forcing Denis’ error to advance into the quarterfinal and surviving a major scare, he resisted them and won the tie break 7-3.
In May, Shapovalov exacted revenge by defeating Rafa at the Foro Italico following yet another epic struggle. “It’s a painful defeat. Rafa has done this before, and I’m not the only person to lose to him after leading by match points.
Rafa handles pressure well at those crucial situations. Even so, I’m happy with how I did and won’t have any trouble falling asleep tonight “said Denis Shapovalov.