Two unseeded opponents – a World No. 143, the other No. 42 in the Emirates ATP Rankings – were all that stood between Rafael Nadal and a return to No. 1 in Montreal by Thursday night. Defeat to the unheralded NextGenATP wild card Denis Shapovalov before a raucous Coupe Rogers crowd, however, means the Spaniard will now turn his sights to Cincinnati.
There the 30 year old will enter a two-horse race at the Western & Southern Open, where he and Roger Federer will bid to take over No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) loss to the 18 year old Canadian was difficult to take as a subsequent victory over the No. 42-ranked Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the quarter-finals would have returned Nadal to top spot for the first time in more than three years.
“It probably is the worst lose of the year, without a doubt, for me,” Nadal said. “He played well. I played really bad. When this kind of thing happens, the only thing you can do is wish the opponent the best.
“It is probably my worst loss of the year because I lost against a player with a lower ranking. At the same time, because of the opportunity I had here to come back to No. 1. Always tough, but the draw was not that impossible after all the matches that were happening. So it was an important mistake from me.”
In a gruelling deciding set in the battle of the two lefties, Nadal failed to convert on six break points. He later relinquished a 3-0 lead in the deciding tie-break. It marked his fourth straight deciding-set tie-break defeat.
“He played well on the breakpoints. He hit some lines. One with 15-30, he hit the second serve ace wide. Then a good return for me, forehand winner down the line, not easy,” Nadal said. “[Despite] all these kind of things, I made too many mistakes on important points.”
Shapovalov became the youngest player to beat at Top 2 opponent (in a completed match) since a 17-year-old Nadal beat top-ranked Federer in the 2004 ATP Masters 1000 Miami third round. Nadal, for one, was not surprised his teenage opponent’s nerves did not crack.
“He has nothing to lose. It is win-win for him,” Nadal said. “If he lost playing a good match, it was good for him. If he lost in straight sets, already he played a good tournament. If he won, he’s amazing. Just well done for him. It’s a great story.”