August 10, 2017 5:59 am
Updated: August 10, 2017 6:08 am

Shapovalov downs Del Potro at Rogers Cup

Denis Shapovalov of Canada celebrates after beating Juan Martin del Potro from Argentina during second round of play at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, Wednesday, August 9, 2017 in Montreal.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – After taking down one boyhood idol, Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov will be gunning for another at the men’s Rogers Cup.

The 18-year-old Shapovalov downed 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a second-round match on a gusty Wednesday afternoon.

He advanced to a third-round meeting with Rafael Nadal, the top seed and a three-time Rogers Cup winner. The Spaniard has battled injuries in recent years but is back in the hunt for the world No.1 ranking after winning his 10th French Open title this year.

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“He’s another guy I grew up watching,” said Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont. “I’ve seen him win so many Slams.”

“Every time I look at him, I think what a ridiculous athlete and what a ridiculous player he is. It’s going to be very interesting for me to go up against him, just to see how my game style matches him. I’m going to try to make the most of it.”

Nadal breezed past Borna Coric of Croatia 6-1, 6-2.

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A wrist injury had Canada’s top-ranked player, sixth-seeded Milos Raonic, badly off his game as he fell 6-4, 6-4 to Adrian Mannarino of France. The heavy-serving Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., did not get an ace until 4-4 in the second set, but lost his serve in the same game.

Shapovalov kept his cool in key moments as he outplayed the veteran Del Potro, a former top-5 player who has dropped to 31st in ATP rankings.

“He’s my idol,” said Shapovalov of the unseeded Del Potro. “Just to play against him is a huge honour for me.”

“But to beat a player of this category, of this talent, is very inspiring for me, a huge confidence boost.”

Shapovalov became the youngest player to reach the Round of 16 of a Master Series tournament since Nadal in 2004 at Miami.

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It likely had mostly to do with Roger Federer playing earlier in the day, but the centre court stands were packed, which is unusual for a weekday afternoon. They threw full support behind the left-handed Shapovalov, who caused a stir at last year’s Rogers Cup by ousting Aussie star Nick Kyrgios.

“I’ve never played in an atmosphere like this,” he said. “On match point, when I hit that double right before it, I mean, my ears almost popped. They were cheering so loud, it was insane.”

Nadal won’t take him lightly.

“He’s a great opponent,” said the Spaniard. “He is an aggressive player.”

“He is young. He has a lot of energy. I’m sure that he will be confident after saving a big match against (Rogerio) Dutra Silva and today winning against one of the best players of the world. He comes to the match with big confidence.”

Second-seeded Federer made short work of Toronto’s Peter Polansky, winning 6-2, 6-1 in 53 minutes.

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Federer, a two-time Rogers Cup champion ranked third in the world, has had a surprise resurgence this season by posting his 18th and 19th career grand slam wins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

It was his first match of the hard court season that leads up to the U.S. Open.

“I think this tournament I’m trying to play with confidence that I gained through the grass court season,” said Federer. “I have to adjust my game a little bit just because the bounce of the ball is so much higher here than at Wimbledon, and there’s wind, which in Wimbledon we didn’t have much of.”

“It’s just really to see how it goes this week, and then learn from this week, how I need to then play in Cincinnati (next week) and the U.S. Open.”

The Swiss ace who turned 36 on Tuesday next faces Spain’s David Ferrer,a 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-1 winner over 15th-seeded American Jack Sock.

Polansky, ranked No. 116 in the world after some strong results in Challenger events, upset No. 75 Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver in the first round on Monday.

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It was his second meeting with Federer. At the 2014 Rogers Cup, he lost 6-2, 6-0.

“Even though I lost, this is one of the most memorable experiences of my life along with the match I played against him in Toronto,” said Polansky. “His transition from the baseline to the net, it’s a joke.

“You blink and he’s at the net. You hit balls pretty hard at him and he’s handling them like it’s no problem. Guys I’m used to playing, if I hit really hard, they’ll kind of block it but he’s constantly moving forward like a freight train.”

In other results, third-seed Dominic Thiem of Austria was upset 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-5 by Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, a finalist last year, was ousted 6-7 (4), 7-6 (7), 7-5 by Gael Monfils. It was the Frenchman’s first win in four meetings with Nishikori.

German Alexander Zverev, the fourth seed, downed Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-3,4-6,7-6 (3). Seventh-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitov topped Mischa Zverev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. No.12 Roberto Agut of Spain downed American Ryan Harrison 7-5, 6-2 and Robin Haase of The Netherlands defeated lucky loser Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 6-1.

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