Shapovalov Tops Coric, Sets Fritz Clash In Tokyo

Canadian chasing back-to-back final appearances in Asia

Denis Shapovalov and Borna Coric both entered their Tokyo quarter-final with perfect set records this week. The Canadian, a finalist last week in Seoul, kept his streak intact with a 6-4, 6-3 win on Friday evening to reach the semi-finals for the second time at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

Shapovalov converted on three of his four break chances to earn his first ATP Head2Head win against Coric in his third try. The seventh seed dropped serve on the only break point he faced as he failed to serve out the opening set at 5-4, but he snapped back to secure the set on return.

After breaking again midway through the second set, he rode strong serving to victory in one hour, 17 minutes. The 23-year-old lost just three points on his own delivery in the second set, during which he enjoyed a run of 13 straight points won on serve.

"I think I played great today," Shapovalov said in a post-match press conference. "In general, my level the last two weeks has been great, so I'm very happy to be back in the semis."

Now 7-2 at the ATP 500 event, where he also reached the semi-finals in 2018, Seoul finalist Shapovalov will bid for his second championship match appearance in as many weeks when he takes on Taylor Fritz, against whom he owns a 4-1 ATP Head2Head record. This week's success has lifted him two places to No. 20 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as he builds back toward his career high of World No. 10, achieved in 2020.

"When my serve is going well, the rest of my game, I can kind of relax and play pretty freely," Shapovalov said. "Me and my team have put a lot of work into returns as well, so I think that's an area where I've improved a lot, as well as the serve. I think those are the two most important shots in the game."

Fritz earlier advanced to the semi-finals following the withdrawal of Nick Kyrgios due to a left knee issue. The pair had been due to meet in the night session at the ATP 500 event, where Kyrgios lifted the trophy in 2016.

"It's obviously very disappointing," Kyrgios said in a press conference. "It's one of my favourite tournaments. I've had great memories here... It's heartbreaking, but I'll be here next year. That's for sure."

The Tokyo fifth seed also pulled out of Atlanta earlier this year with a left-knee issue before rebounding in time to reach the US Open quarter-finals.

"I've been playing amazing tennis all year and actually was dealing with a bit of a knee issue around the US Open time," Kyrgios explained. "I got back home and probably didn't take enough time off, to be honest. I went straight back into training."

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The 2016 Tokyo champion had been in fine form this week with singles wins against Chun-Hsin Tseng and Kamil Majchrzak in addition to a run to the doubles semi-finals alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis. The Australian pair has also withdrawn from the doubles draw as a result of Kyrgios' injury.

"The Japanese fans are some of my favourite to play in front of," Kyrgios said. "It's been such an amazing week. Obviously playing four matches and winning all four, I've been feeling great. I definitely felt like I was a threat to win the tournament and go all the way in singles and doubles."

Kyrgios plans to return to the ATP Tour later this month in Basel and Paris.

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Third seed Fritz had not won a match in three previous appearances in Tokyo but has battled hard to advance through the draw this week in the Japanese capital. The American saw off both James Duckworth and Hiroki Moriya in three sets to set the quarter-final clash with Kyrgios. Those victories came off the back of the American spending a week in full quarantine due to testing positive for COVID-19 in Seoul last week.

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