Rafael Nadal had a brilliant comeback year in 2017. After two years in the wilderness suffering injury after injury, the Spaniard made a dream-like comeback to the tour, making the Australian Open final against Roger Federer. He then swept the clay season and won his 10th Roland Garros title, before picking up the US Open trophy to finish the year ranked No. 1 in the world.
Rafael Nadal did, however, face a few shock losses during the course of the year. The most remarkable of those was a third-round defeat in the Rogers Cup against local hero and wildcard entrant Denis Shapovalov.
The Canadian youngster, who is currently ranked 16th in the world, was just 18 years old at the time and was playing in one of his first ATP tour-level tournaments - and that too in front of a largely partisan Montreal crowd. The result has such a special place in Shapovalov's career that he still remembers every bit of it vividly.
Defeating Rafael Nadal started my career: Denis Shapovalov
Shapovalov joined Sportsnet for a re-watch of the thrilling encounter, during which he revealed that it was one of the greatest challenges of his professional and personal life. The Canadian went on to speak about how, even three years on, he is still nervous about the match and how to this day, the win seems surreal.
"Honestly, I'm nervous just watching again. I'm nervous, I'm sweaty, it's as if I'm playing the match again," said Shapovalov. "It looks gruelling, to be honest. Especially at that age and stage of my career when I was nowhere near where I needed to be physically to play against a guy like Rafael Nadal, who is used to playing matches like this just day in and day out."
The World No. 16 further went on to say:
"I remember cramping during the match and after playing and defeating Rafael Nadal, having to come back the next day and play (Adrian) Mannarino. It was like torture in a way."
Shapovalov then went on to reveal how important the match was for him personally. The Canadian believes everything that happened in his career subsequently might not have been possible had he lost to Rafael Nadal that night.
"I just remember finishing the US Open and my entire team being very emotional about the last month that had just gone by. In that span of a month we had just made crazy history," said Shapavolov. "It (defeating Rafael Nadal) completely started my career. It was an unbelievable moment."Published 18 Jun 2020, 20:41 IST