© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Denis Shapovalov defeats Soonwoo Kwon on Wednesday in Melbourne.

Shapovalov Shows Fighting Spirit, Reaches R3

Canadian next faces Opelka

Denis Shapovalov took the long road into his third Australian Open third round in a five-set comeback win over South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon. The No. 14 seed had chances to win each of the first three sets but took only one of them before battling to a 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-2 win on Margaret Court Arena.

With the fourth set knotted a 5-all, Shapovalov strung together consecutive breaks to force a fifth and then edge ahead 3-0 In the decider. He saw that advantage home against the World No. 54, advancing after four hours, 25 minutes.

“I’ll probably sleep in the ice bath tonight,” he joked in his on-court interview. ”It was a great match. I’m really happy to get the win today. I just fought through it.”

The match started comfortably for Shapovalov, who opened up a double break lead and served for the opening set at 5-4. Pushed to a tie-break, he sealed the set with an ace after Kwon contributed three crucial errors in the tie-break.

But Kwon’s aggressive tactics at the big moments paid off late in the next two sets. The South Korean showed no fear as he saved a set point on serve at 5-4 in the second, then hit four winners as he powered through the tie-break.

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Shapovalov let two leads slip in set three. After surrendering a break advantage midway through, he found himself in danger at 5-6, 30-all. Six big serves later, he was up a mini-break at 5-2 in the tie-break. But Kwon showed punch on his own delivery and took full advantage of a trio of Shapovalov miscues to steal the set.

It was red alert for the Canadian at break point down early in the fourth, but a flicked backhand overhead got him out of danger as he held for 3-2. As the match wore on, the Canadian took control, ultimately winning eight of the match’s last 10 games to escape with the win.

He finished with 29 aces to go along with his seven breaks of serve.

There will likely be more tie-breaks in Shapovalov’s future, as he will take on 23rd seed Reilly Opelka in the third round. The 23rd-seeded American beat Dominik Koepfer, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4), earlier on Wednesday.

“I’ll just try to make as many returns as possible and try to hold my serve,” he previewed. “He’s a great guy and it’ll be a great match.

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