Staggering detail in Rafa Nadal photo re-emerges after 14 years

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·Sports Editor
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Rafa Nadal and Denis Shapovalov, pictured here at the Montreal Masters in 2008.
Rafa Nadal and Denis Shapovalov first met 14 years ago at the Montreal Masters in 2008. Image: Getty/Twitter

Fourteen years ago Denis Shapovalov was serving as a mascot for a Rafa Nadal match in Montreal.

On Tuesday he faced off against the 20-time grand slam champion for a place in the Australian Open semi-finals.

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Nadal and Shapovalov did battle in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in the latest chapter of their unique story.

When Shapovalov was just nine years old he was offered the chance to toss the coin for Nadal's match at the Montreal Masters and pose for photos with the tennis giant.

While it was an awesome moment in the youngster's life, nothing will beat playing on the same court as Nadal and beating him.

In 2017, Nadal was already predicting great things for the Canadian after being given a crystal-clear warning of the massive threat posed by the tennis prodigy.

Nine years after their first meeting, Shapovalov took down Nadal (again at the Montreal Masters) for the biggest victory of his career.

Then aged 18, Shapovalov made the most of his wildcard to pull off a memorable 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory on home soil to derail Nadal's bid to take the World No.1 ranking from Andy Murray.

Nadal has won the subsequent four meetings between the pair, including another epic on the Spaniard's beloved clay at last year's Rome Masters that also went to a final-set tiebreak.

But somewhat surprisingly, Tuesday's quarter-final clash at Melbourne Park marked the first time the pair met at grand slam level.

"That was a a tough one, that one, I remember because I was playing for the No. 1," Nadal recalled of his first encounter with Shapovalov.

"He played great. Honestly, he was very young and he played with amazing intensity and created amazing shots.

"As everybody knows, is one of the players with the biggest potential on the tour.

"When I played against him, after the match I said he's going to be a potential multi-grand slam winner.

"And I still think that if he's able to keep improving, he will be a multi-grand slam winner.

"He has a lot of amazing things on his game, and his results says that."

Nadal survives massive scare from Shapovalov

Nadal survived a five-set scare from Shapovalov on Tuesday to continue one of world sport's most remarkable streaks.

The Spanish legend's 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 win ensured at least one of the Big Three has made the last four for the 70th time in the past 71 grand slam events.

The only time it did not happen since 2004 came at the 2020 US Open when Nadal and Roger Federer weren't playing and Novak Djokovic was defaulted in the fourth round for recklessly hitting a ball that struck a line judge.

Nadal's victory, though, did not come easy as he dealt with stomach issues in the Melbourne heat and was in danger of bowing out at the quarter-final stage of the Open for the third consecutive year.

Rafael Nadal, pictured here after beating Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

But once again the nigh-on indomitable 35-year-old was able to fend off a challenge from one of the leaders of generation to extend the Big Three's unparalleled dominance of tennis.

"I was completely destroyed after that very warm day. I didn't practice for it," Nadal said.

"I started to feel not very well in my stomach so I just asked if they can do something.

"Everything was alright on my body but I took some tablets to try and improve the stomach problem I had.

"I think I was lucky I was serving great in the fifth (set)."

Without Federer and Djokovic at Melbourne Park, Nadal now has a golden opportunity to become men's tennis' all-time majors title leader.

The three greats are locked on 20 slams each.

with AAP

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