Despite falling agonisingly short against former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Tuesday, Denis Shapovalov was proud of his spirited quarter-final performance in Melbourne.
The Canadian, who was making his first appearance in the last eight at Melbourne Park, rallied from two sets down to level, before being edged 3-6 in the deciding set on Rod Laver Arena.
“I’m happy with the way I was able to fight and come back,” Shapovalov said in his post-match press conference. “I definitely found my game late in the third and in the fourth [sets]. It’s good to have more time at the Grand Slams to have opportunities to try to find your game. [It was a] good tournament for me overall.”
The 14th seed upset World No. 3 Alexander Zverev to set up his match against Nadal, but struggled to cope with the Spaniard’s intensity in the early phases of their clash. However, he altered up the tactic board, showing his growing maturity as a player to claw his way back into the match.
“I just changed things,” Shapovalov added. “I felt like I was shanking a lot of returns, so I just tried to prep a little bit higher. Once I did that, I was really seeing his serves and returning well.”
The 22-year-old, who now trails Nadal 1-4 in their ATP Head2Head series, was ultimately left frustrated though with his level in the fifth set.
“It just sucks to lose that one,” Shapovalov added. “I definitely felt like I had it on my racquet. And, I mean, [in the] third, fourth and fifth set, I felt like I was the better player, had more chances. [It was] just one bad game from me.”
Nadal’s victory means he has maintained his chances of capturing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title this week in Melbourne. When asked about the Spaniard, Shapovalov was full of admiration, acknowledging how tough of a competitor the 35-year-old still is.
“Rafa did a good job in the last set,” Shapovalov said. “Once he broke, he held his service games and served really big. He’s obviously putting a lot of pressure on you and making a lot of balls and playing aggressively when needed. Maybe other opponents would give me a little bit more freedom. It was definitely tricky.”