Shapo Blunts Opelka Serve, Reaches R4
Denis Shapovalov soared into the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time Friday, blunting big-serving American Reilly Opelka 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a potential clash against third seed Alexander Zverev.
The 14th seed played free-flowing, aggressive baseline tennis against 6’ 11” Opelka, showcasing impressive footwork to dictate on his heavy forehand as he backed up his fifth-set second-round victory over Soonwoo Kwon in style.
“It was a tough one out there against Reilly,” Shapovalov said in his on-court interview. “You really have to take your chances and I am happy with the way it went. Thank you guys for all of the support.”
The Canadian competed with high intensity throughout his three-hour, five-minute win, dealing with Opelka’s thunderous serve to good effect. He stood close to the baseline to counter the angle and height of the American’s serve, slicing his returns in the crucial moments as he broke three times to advance.
“I knew he was going to hit one or two aces but I tried to get my racquet on as many as possible,” Shapovalov added. “Early on I found a rhythm on his serve, I was able to chip quite a lot back which I was happy about. I think I did a good job taking the chances. It is tough to get the rhythm against a guy like that, so I am super happy.”
Shapovalov, who is making his fifth appearance in Melbourne, will face Alexander Zverev in the last 16 if the German can overcome Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot on John Cain Arena. Zverev leads Shapovalov 4-2 in their ATPHead2Head series, with all but one of their matches coming on hard.
The 22-year-old helped guide Canada to the ATP Cup title earlier this month and is now 6-1 on the season, with his partnership with new coach Jamie Delgado getting off to a strong start. The Wimbledon semi-finalist stuck 39 winners and committed 32 unforced errors in his victory against Opelka.Opelka did not drop a set en route to the third round in Melbourne, but was unable to find his way past Shapovalov despite hitting 18 aces as he aimed to advance to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time.