The hot Melbourne sun couldn’t stop an ice-cold Denis Shapovalov from extinguishing the Australian Open hopes of World No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Sunday afternoon.
The Canadian 14th seed had joked about sleeping in an ice bath after his marathon five-set second-round win over World No. 54 Soonwoo Kwon, and he kept a cool presence throughout as he brushed past an inconsistent Zverev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 in the fourth round.
“It’s probably the one I least expected to finish in three,” Shapovalov said in his on-court interview. “I’m very happy with my performance, definitely happy with where my game is at.”
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Having also come through the big-serving test of Reilly Opelka in the third round, World No. 14 Shapovalov’s return game looked finely tuned on Margaret Court Arena. He broke Zverev early for 3-1, the German dropping just his third service game of the tournament on the way to also losing his first set in Melbourne this year.
Zverev showed his frustration as Shapovalov broke again immediately in the second, but seven double faults in the set from the Canadian let the German back in. Despite serving for the set at 5-3, Zverev’s top level continued to elude him at crucial moments and Shapovalov was able to force a tie-break, already his seventh of the tournament in just four matches. The practice under pressure showed as the Canadian looked the more comfortable in the situation, taking it 7/5.
Shapovalov looked sharp throughout, hitting 35 winners and winning 81 per cent (22/27) of points at the net. Zverev battled but could find no answers as the 22-year-old Canadian sealed victory to complete just his second win against a Top 5 player and reach a third Grand Slam quarter-final.
“I think off the ground I was playing really well, really feeling my shots off both wings,” Shapovalov said. “I played pretty smart today, it felt like things were going my way early on. I lost a little bit of momentum mid-way in the second set but fought well to come back and just kind of rolled with it after.”
Shapovalov’s opponent in the last eight will be Rafael Nadal, after the sixth-seeded Spaniard beat Adrian Mannarino 7-6(14), 6-2, 6-2. Nadal holds a 3-1 ATP Head2Head series lead over Shapovalov, and the Canadian knows what to expect from the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
“It’s always an honor to go up against a guy like Rafa,” Shapovalov said. “It’s always going to be a battle against him. It’s going to be a tough one and I’m definitely going to enjoy it.”