“I lost in the second round against Tsitsipas I remember,” Zapata Miralles told ATPTour.com. “I won the first round, but I played so nervous.”
Some of his lasting memories from the tournament were practice sessions with his countrymen, including Feliciano Lopez and Gullermo Garcia-Lopez. Zapata Miralles remembers fondly watching Garcia-Lopez play Tomas Berdych in the third round.
The junior players at the season’s final major use a locker room in an indoor building across the venue from Arthur Ashe Stadium. But Zapata Miralles remembers getting a chance to step into the pro’s locker room once. There, one of the competitors he saw was Novak Djokovic.
The Spaniard has never practised with the Serbian nor faced him in a match. But on Wednesday, that will change when Zapata Miralles takes on the 23-time major champion.
“I think I need to stay relaxed. I don’t have nothing to lose if I play against Novak, of course,” Zapata Miralles said. “I try to be focussed in the match and try to do my best to have some chances. But I don’t feel too nervous.
“For me it’s another match, one match more in my tennis career, and this is the important thing.”
But he has never faced an opponent with the experience of Djokovic, who has finished as ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone a record seven times. The Spaniard has plenty of respect for the three-time US Open winner.
“I think he’s a machine,” Zapata Miralles said. “For me he’s an unbelievable player, one of the best in history.”
The good news for Zapata Miralles is he has played a lot of top players this season — five Top 10 opponents, to be exact. He pushed Daniil Medvedev to a third set in Rome and Andrey Rublev to a final-set tie-break in Hamburg. However, Zapata Miralles has never defeated a Top 10 player.
“I played good matches this year on clay. I think the match if I play against Novak is different because it’s on hard and normally I always feel more comfortable on clay,” Zapata Miralles said. “I played good matches against Rublev in Hamburg and Daniil in Rome. But I think [it will be a] different match on Wednesday.”
Zapata Miralles defeated reigning NCAA men’s singles champion Ethan Quinn in straight sets Tuesday for his first tour-level win on hard courts this season (6-16 career). Twenty-seven of his 33 tour-level victories have come on clay.
“It’s a different surface, so it’s more complicated for me, I think,” Zapata Miralles said. “But I will try to find this level that I played in these matches.”
For a clay-court standout who climbed to a career-high No. 37 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings this year based on his success on that surface, Zapata Miralles calls the US Open his favourite tournament.
“Probably [because I love] the city. I love New York. I feel very comfortable in Manhattan,” Zapata Miralles said. “When I have time, I like to walk there and go to dinner in some restaurants… I feel like I’m home here.”
Zapata Miralles will hope that is the case inside Arthur Ashe Stadium Wednesday when he plays Djokovic.