Inspired Shapovalov dominates listless Zverev to reach Australian Open quarter-finals

Denis Shapovalov’s win on Sunday sets up a showdown with fellow southpaw Rafa Nadal.

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MELBOURNE — Denis Shapovalov upset a standout Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 in scorching heat on Sunday to reach his first Australian Open quarter-final and set up a showdown with his compatriot left-hander Rafa Nadal.

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The pugnacious Canadian was magnificent against the German third seed, earning one of his biggest career wins at Margaret Court Arena.

For all Shapovalov’s talent and the predictions of Grand Slam success that followed, beating the best was a challenge.

Zverev was only the second top-five player he beat, along with the first Nadal, four years ago in Montreal.

Now the 22-year-old will try to end the Spaniard great’s bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title.

“I definitely expect a long battle there,” Shapovalov said of facing Nadal.

“Obviously, he makes you play a lot. His defense is very good. He is very good at what he does. »

Shapovalov will be ready for a marathon, having survived a five-set slog against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in the second round and two more four sets.

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This all came after he tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Sydney around Christmas and had to self-isolate.

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“Of course, I’m just happy with my game so far and my fighting spirit,” he said.

Shapovalov expected more of a battle against a listless Zverev, who was on the back foot throughout the Canadian’s all-out attack.

After sleepwalking through the first set and taking a break in the second, Zverev rallied to take Shapovalov in a tiebreaker but quickly fell apart.

Conceding an early break in the third set, the German obediently withdrew and was scathing about his own performance.

“Everything,” he said, when asked what was wrong.

“Today was just, in my opinion, awful on my end.”

A Grand Slam finalist with burning ambition, Zverev could have taken the world number one spot from Novak Djokovic by winning the title at Melbourne Park.

At the end of 2021, Zverev said he saw himself, Russian Daniil Medvedev and deportee Djokovic forming their own “Big Three” in 2022 – without Nadal and Roger Federer.

Instead, the 24-year-old found himself trying his luck begging.

“At the end of the day, I have to do better,” he said.

“I came here with a goal of winning, and maybe becoming number one and all that. But if I play like that, I don’t deserve it.

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