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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday January 23, 2022

Nearly five years ago an 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov electrified the crowds at Rogers Cup and Montreal and created an upset for the ages at the Rogers Cup when he took down the great Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), in the round of 16.

Tennis Express

Shapovalov became the youngest quarterfinalist in ATP Masters 1000 history and the second-youngest player to ever defeat Nadal.

Five years later we recognize how special that victory was. Especially when we see that Shapovalov had lost 17 consecutive matches against the Top-5 until he took out Alexander Zverev in the round of 16 at Melbourne on Day 7.

But Nadal saw potential in Shapovalov then – as he does now.

“He played great,” Nadal said when asked to recall that defeat on Sunday in Melbourne. “Honestly, he was very young and he played with amazing intensity and creating amazing shots. Yeah, as everybody knows, is one of the players with the biggest potential on the tour.

Nadal said he envisioned great success for Shapovalov back then, and he still does today.

“I mean, when I played against him, after the match I said he gonna be potential multi-Grand Slam winner,” Nadal said. “And I still think that if he's able to keep improving, he will be a multi-Grand Slam winner, no? He has a lot of amazing things on his game, and his results says that. When he's playing well, it's very difficult to stop him. You can see today against a great player like Sascha, straight sets, if he's able to play regular in terms of his level, yeah, gonna be a potential very high-ranking player.”

The Spaniard hopes he can keep Shapovalov at bay long enough to earn a fourth consecutive victory against him when the pair meet in the quarterfinals.

“Gonna be a tough one for me,” he said. “But I in quarterfinals, what to expect, no? I mean, is a match to try my best, to play at my highest level if I want to have chances to go through. And, yeah, I'm excited about it, honestly, no? I didn't expect to be where I am weeks ago.” More than anything, Nadal says he is pleased that his body is behaving. He feels fit, which means he is able to practice and play with full intensity. Whenever that happens, the victories are certain to come.

“In terms of tennis, I am happy in general terms, of course, no?” he said. “I did a lot of things well, and knowing from where we are coming and about the amount of practices at the highest level that I was able to do before here, the things are going much better than expected, without a doubt, no?”