Shapovalov Turns Back The Clock In Montreal
It was as if it was 2017 all over again. Denis Shapovalov had the Montreal crowd roaring again on Monday night during his Coupe Rogers opener.
The #NextGenATP Canadian, who made his breakthrough two years ago at the ATP Masters 1000 event, brought some of his best tennis to snap a five-match losing streak and advance 6-3, 7-5 against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
"It was so much fun to be out there. It's honestly a dream come true to be going out there, prime match, playing in front of so many people, so many people that are backing me," Shapovalov said.
"I was excited the whole week for this moment, regardless of win or lose, just to be able to play in front of everyone. It really brings a lot of joy for me. It's moments like this why I chose to pick up a racquet.
"Obviously two years ago it was a dream run for me. I couldn't wait to get back to this court, to this tournament."
Shapovalov broke four times, including in the final games of both sets as the 20-year-old ramped up pressure against the serve-and-volleying right-hander. Shapovalov was swinging freely from the back of the court and never missing a moment to engage the red-and-white faithful in the stands.
He donated eight double faults – and 32 unforced errors – but lost his serve only once, at the start the second set. But Shapovalov broke back immediately.
The left-hander is looking to reignite his 2019. Shapovalov made his third Masters 1000 semi-final in March at the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Federer), but since, he hasn't won two consecutive matches.
"I had that fire back today that I've been missing, especially the last couple weeks. Maybe it's been longer than that. It's good to get back on the right track," Shapovalov said.
He will next meet World No. 4 Dominic Thiem, who's also trying to end an unfavourable streak. Thiem has never won a match at the Canadian Masters 1000 (0-5). He won his third ATP Tour title of the season on Saturday at the clay-court Generali Open in Kitzbuhel.
Two years ago in Montreal, Shapovalov made his first Masters 1000 semi-final, beating Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal en route to becoming the youngest Masters 1000 quarter-finalist and semi-finalist in series history (since 1990). Shapovalov, a wild-card entry and No. 143 at the time, captivated the Canadian crowd with his fist pumps, shouts of "Come on!" and aesthetically-pleasing game.
The fairytale run has been seen plenty of air time of late as the tournament returns to Montreal this year after its Toronto rotation in 2018, and Shapovalov has stopped to watch and remember his run.
"I got to watch a lot of myself. It really inspired me to go out there today and just enjoy myself, just like two years ago. Have fun out there, fight for every point," Shapovalov said.
Save for his his bumpy ride of late, the left-hander has steadily climbed the ATP Rankings since then, reaching a career-best No. 20 on 1 April.
In other action, 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut went three-for-three on break points against Aussie Bernard Tomic and advanced 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard will next meet Los Cabos titlist Diego Schwartzman or Italian Marco Cecchinato. Frenchman Richard Gasquet ousted countryman Benoit Paire 7-6(2), 6-4 and awaits fifth seed Kei Nishikori.
Gael Monfils celebrated his 100th win at the Masters 1000 level, becoming the 18th active player to reach the milestone with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 win against Canadian wild card Peter Polansky. Monfils, the 16th seed, will next meet Ilya Ivashka of Belarus. Ivashka beat South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon 7-6(3), 6-4.
Did You Know?
Two years ago, Shapovalov also became the lowest-ranked Masters 1000 semi-finalist since 2003 (No. 191 Pavel).