Denis Shapovalov has scored arguably the biggest upset of Australian Open 2022, defeating German third seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 on Sunday to earn a maiden Melbourne Park quarterfinal berth.
The 22-year-old took two hours and 21 minutes to secure the surprise win, earning him bragging rights as the third Canadian to reach the final eight in Melbourne. It marks Shapovalov's second-ever victory over a player ranked within the ATP Tour's top five, a drought that began in 2017.
Under a blazing sun, Zverev and Shapovalov, seeded 14th, stepped onto Margaret Court Arena to contest their first-ever Grand Slam meeting. Armed with a 4-2 head-to-head advantage, 24-year-old Zverev generated the first two break opportunities of the match but was unable to convert, in part because of Shapovalov's ability to repeatedly produce big serves under pressure.
The Canadian jumped ahead to a 3-1 lead, breaking at his first chance when Zverev, viewed by pundits among favourites for the title, dumped a forehand into the net. Serving at 5-3, the left-hander held to love, closing out the set with a casual tap-over volley.
In the opening game of the second set, momentum remained with the Canadian, who converted break point as Zverev misfired a forehand into the net, leading the German to dramatically demolish his racquet.
Encouraged, Shapovalov kept the winners flowing off his racquet, but the German broke in the fourth game to level the set at 2-2 after a backhand volley drew a mishit from his younger rival.
In a shaky eighth game, Shapovalov produced two double faults and a handed Zverev a 5-3 lead after sailing a backhand long. But serving for the set, Zverev delivered a pair of double faults of his own, setting up a couple of break points for Shapovalov. The Canadian didn't need to be asked twice, seizing the first by charging the net to put away a forehand volley.
The duo marched into a tiebreak, and exchanged minibreaks to kick off proceedings before Shapovalov raced to a 4-1 lead, passing the German with a perfectly-executed forehand approach winner. As pressure mounted, Shapovalov gave up a first set point with another double fault but was gifted the second – and a two sets to love lead – after Zverev shanked a forehand.
Armed with self-belief, the Canadian secured another early break, edging ahead 2-0 after an increasingly agitated Zverev sent a backhand wide. Both players took care of business through the next six games, and at 5-3, Shapovalov stepped up to serve for the upset.
Unshaken by a double fault, his 11th of the bout, the Canadian clinched victory as Zverev dropped a forehand into the net.
The loss marks extends a slump of form by Zverev against tough opponents at majors, stretching the German's win-loss record against top-20 players at Grand Slams to a lacklustre 4-15.
"I'm happy to pull through and win today again," said Shapovalov, thanking the riveted crowd for creating a fun atmosphere.
"It's always better to finish in three … this is probably the one I least expected to finish in three," added the Canadian, who was stretched to four sets in his first and third-round matches, and five sets in the round of 64.
Shapovalov admitted he was "really feeling" his shots off both wings, a fact backed up by a 35-strong winner count, almost double Zverev's 18.
In the quarterfinals, Shapovalov will face off against AO 2009 champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard survived a tough fourth-round encounter against another lefty, Adrian Mannarino, ultimately triumphing 7-6(14) 6-2 6-2.
"It's always an honour to go up against a guy like Rafa," said Shapovalov.
"It's always fun, it's always going to be a battle against him and yeah, it's going to be a tough one, definitely going to enjoy it."
The 20-time major champion is all too aware of the potential danger ahead.
"Shapovalov is a player with an amazing potential," said Nadal, who holds a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over the youngster.
"Everybody knows that when he is playing very well, it's very difficult to stop him with big serve, amazing forehand, very quick, no?"
"I know I need to play very, very well to try to keep having chances … I'm going to try my best."