Dennis Shapovalov shocked Rafael Nadal on the Spanish legend’s favorite playing surface Thursday to highlight a big day for Canadian tennis stars at the Italian Open clay-court tournament.
Shapovalov joined fellow Canadians Bianca Andreescu and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarterfinals with 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 upset of Nadal to end Thursday’s play at the ATP and WTA 1000-series event.
Andreescu beat Serbia’s Petra Marti─ç 6-4, 6-4 and Auger-Aliassime bounced American Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-2 earlier in the day.
Nadal has been struggling with a foot injury, and limped between points as the match wore on.
“Definitely tough to see him in pain there at the end,” Shapovalov said. “I never want to see that, especially with a great legend like Rafa. He brings so much to our sport. Hopefully he’s fit and ready to go for the French [Open].”
WATCH | Shapovalov upsets Nadal on clay court in Italian Open:
Still, Nadal dominated the first set, winning 74 per cent of service points and 64 per cent of total points. Despite firing four aces in the set, Shapovalov struggled on serve, winning just 44 per cent of service points. He was broken twice on five chances.
Shapovalov rebounded strong to start the second set, eventually taking a 4-1 lead. But Nadal battled back and survived a break point chance to hold and tie the set 4-4.
But Shapovalov held serve the rest of the set and broke Nadal in the deciding 12th game to force a decider.
After the players traded breaks to open the third set, Shapovalov took over, winning the match with his third break of the set.
Shapovalov finished the match with 13 aces to Nadal’s two and also excelled at the net. The Canadian won 74 per cent of net points (14 of 19) compared to 50 per cent for Nadal (three of six).
“I hurt my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said. “I’m a player living with an injury. It’s nothing new. It’s something that is there, unfortunately. Day by day is difficult. Lots of days I can’t practice with it the proper way again.”
Nadal, the third seed in Rome, entered the tournament with a 466-44 career record on clay.
Shapovalov will face fifth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway in Friday’s quarterfinals. He is now 2-4 life against Nadal, with the other victory coming in the first meeting between the players at the 2017 Rogers Cup in Toronto.
Earlier, Andreescu broke Martiç three times on four chances and saved six of the seven break points she faced to reach her first quarterfinal at a 1000 series clay tournament.
WATCH | Andreescu beats Martiç to set showdown with Swiatek:
Next up for Andreescu is top-seeded Iga Swiatek, the defending champion in Rome who is attempting to win her fifth consecutive tournament.
The last player to win more consecutive matches was Serena Williams, who had a streak of 27 in a row over 2014 and 2015.
Swiatek’s run makes her a favorite to win a second French Open when the year’s second Grand Slam gets underway in 10 days.
Meanwhile, third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka beat Madrid Open finalist Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-4.
Auger-Aliassime to meet Djokovic
In the men’s tournament, Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime dispatched American Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-2 in the men’s third round.
He’ll next face top-ranked player Novak Djokovic, who faced little resistance in a 6-2, 6-2 win over Stan Wawrinka, who was playing only his second tournament after undergoing two surgeries on his left foot.
At one hour 14 minutes, Djokovic finished his match off in less time than the first set between Swiatek and Victoria Azarenka.
WATCH | Auger-Aliassime eliminates Giron:
The loudest cheers of the day were for Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who beat Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (6) to reach the quarter-finals for the first time at his home tournament.
Sinner will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who rallied past Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 for a tour-leading 29th win of the year.
2017 Rome champion Alexander Zverev, who is also coming off a run to the Madrid final, beat Alex De Minaur 6-3, 7-6 (5).
Zverev, who is still seeking his first title of the year, has his father and coach, Alexander, back on the circuit with him after a prolonged period for reasons the family has kept personal.
When Zverev won the ATP Finals in November, his older brother and fellow pro, Mischa, was coaching him.
“I was missing a coach for six months. That’s what was missing,” Zverev said. “That’s why I took Sergi Bruguera on — because we didn’t quite know how long it would take my father to be back.
“I’m very happy for him to be back here. It gives me a certain calmness, a certain confidence as well, because he’s been there from the beginning of my career. I think nobody knows me better on the court than he does. “