‘I have what it takes to beat these guys’: Nadal triumphant but Shapovalov bullish
Another young star pushed the king of clay to his limits in Rome – but Denis Shapovalov was pragmatic after dropping two match points against Rafael Nadal
The Spaniard progressed to the quarter-finals in Rome with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory in three and a half hours – and the vanquished Canadian suggested afterwards that Nadal gets tougher to beat the longer a match goes on.
“That’s why he’s won so many matches on clay,” he told reporters. “I mean, obviously he’s a great player. There’s no question about that. Just a tough one.”
Shapovalov: ‘Tough loss’
The pair have now played each other four times – with one walkover in Shapovalov’s favour – and Nadal has three wins on the board, two of them coming on clay.
But the 22-year-old was pleased with his level of play, adding that he felt he played with more freedom against the world No 2.
“These matches, you have nothing to lose,” he said. “In tennis, I don’t know, we’re lucky. In the UFC, you have like one chance to fight the top guy. In tennis you have a lot of chances. Of course, in this kind of sense it’s great to have these opportunities. You go out, play with nothing to lose. Who is going to give me crap 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. It’s not a surprise to me. It’s just a tough loss. Of course, it’s not the first time Rafa’s done this. I’m not the first person to lose with match points. For sure he does well with the pressure in those moments. Just something I have to take back and just make a couple changes. But I’m definitely happy with where my game’s at, relatively speaking, against the greatest player on this surface.”
Nadal, for his part, admitted it was a tough match, and one which he found physically gruelling.
“To be able to win these kind of matches against young players [gives] me confidence with my body,” he told the media. “It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow, but the main thing today for me is recover physically, no?
“[It has] been a positive victory for me. I [fought] until the end a lot to be in quarter-finals. Tomorrow is a chance to play a quarter-finals match. I hope to be ready to compete well.”