Denis Shapovalov’s goal for the year is to reach the top 100 in the ATP Tour rankings.
The 18-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., took a step in that direction Wednesday when he defeated his idol, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-3, 7-6 (4) to reach the Round of 16 at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open men’s tennis championships.
Shapovalov finished the day as the lone surviving Canadian, as sixth-seeded Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., turned in an uninspired performance in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Adrian Mannarino of France. After the match, Raonic said he is suffering from a left wrist injury.
Shapovalov will be a decided underdog when he meets top-seeded Rafael Nadal, who cruised past Croatian Borna Coric 6-1, 6-2. Even if he loses Thursday evening, Shapovalov will come out of this week with a career-high ranking in the 125 range.
“Like I said yesterday, he’s my idol,” Shapovalov said after he became the youngest Canadian to reach the third round in this tournament. “First of all, just to play against him, it’s a huge honour for me. But to beat a player of this category, of this talent, it’s very inspiring for me, a huge confidence boost.”
The win lifted Shapovalov into some rarefied company. He’s the youngest player to reach the third round of this event since Mats Wilander in 1982. And he’s the youngest player to reach the final 16 of an ATP Masters 1000 event since Rafael Nadal in Miami in 2004.
Shapovalov showed poise beyond his years. When del Potro broke his serve to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, Shapovalov broke right back.
The Canadian broke del Potro to take a 6-5 lead in the second set and was serving for the match, but he had a double-fault and played some loose points to allow del Potro to break right back. He then fell behind 3-1 in the tiebreaker, but reeled off five consecutive points for a 6-3 lead.
On his first match point, he double-faulted, but he didn’t allow the point to upset him.
“It was just bad luck,” he said. “I hit the tape twice and both serves went out. I told myself for the next point, just put a little bit more spin on the serve, make sure you get the first serve in. I was hoping for a shorter return, which I got.”
He used the short return to push del Potro deep into the court and the Argentine was forced to throw up a defensive lob, which Shapovalov put way.
Peter Polansky wasn’t as fortunate in his match against one of his idols. Second-seeded Roger Federer needed only 53 minutes to beat the 29-year-old Torontonian 6-2, 6-1.
Raonic was originally scheduled to play his first match Tuesday, but requested a delay to deal with what was described as a “minor” injury. He said his left wrist was swollen and that, if this were any other tournament, he wouldn’t have played. Raonic is right-handed, but hits a two-handed backhand. The big surprise was that his usually punishing serve was nowhere to be seen. It was 4-4 in the second set when he served his only ace.
“It was hard for me to really put any pace on a backhand,” Raonic said. “I tried using the slice a little bit more. But it didn’t really come together as well as I would have hoped.”
There was high drama on the grandstand as fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany fought off three match points to beat Richard Gasquet of France 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3). Zverev, who took an injury timeout in the second set to have his right ankle taped, had three match points of his own while serving at 5-4 in the third set. He went ahead 40-0, but lost the next five points. Two games later, it was Gasquet with the match points, but it was Zverev who prevailed, saving one point on a 49-shot exchange.
Ninth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium was upset by Korean Hyeon Chung 7-5, 6-3 and American Sam Querrey upset eighth-seeded Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
Three seeded players lost in the afternoon. South African Kevin Anderson defeated 11th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 7-6 (6); Gaël Monfils outlasted No 5 Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (6) and David Ferrer will meet Federer after beating 15th-seeded Jack Sock 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-1.