(Reuters) – Denis Shapovalov announced himself to the world by stunning Rafa Nadal two years ago in Montreal and the Canadian teenager will hope to draw from the Spaniard’s tactical manual when he meets Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open third round on Saturday.
Having blitzed his way through the opening two rounds, the 19-year-old Shapovalov revealed he would study videos of fellow left-hander Nadal to prepare for his first meeting with world number one Djokovic in the hope of sealing another big upset.
“I’m glad to hear that, that he’s doing his homework and research. It’s important for a young player,” an unworried Djokovic said of his opponent’s due diligence.
“He’s impressive not just as a talented tennis player but also how he goes about his professionalism, his commitments, how he deals with pressure, how confident he is on the court.
“Nadal and him… the only thing they’re sharing I think is the left hand. I don’t think they share many similarities in their game. I think it’s quite different.”
Serbian Djokovic is back to his dominant best having come back from elbow surgery last year to claim the final two Grand Slams of the season.
The 31-year-old, who thumped old rival Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets on Thursday, said he had been tracking world number 27 Shapovalov’s progress since he toppled Nadal.
“I’ve been following him the last couple years,” Djokovic said. “Yeah, he’s very pumped. He brings a lot of energy to the court, which is great to see.
“I expect a really interesting encounter. He will not have anything really to lose, so I’m sure he’s going to come out really pumped.”
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, another of the next generation players hoping to make a mark on the biggest stage, takes on Australia’s Alex Bolt.
Women’s world number one Simona Halep faces a potentially tricky test against seven-times major winner Venus Williams while U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka meets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)