© Hiroshi Sato

Denis Shapovalov, a semi-finalist in Chengdu last week, was solid on serve in Tokyo against Miomir Kecmanovic on Tuesday.

Shapovalov Superb Against Kecmanovic In Tokyo

Canadian continues recent run of form

Canadian Denis Shapovalov carried momentum into his first-round match at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships Tuesday evening against fellow #NextGenATP player Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. It showed on Colosseum, as Shapovalov defeated Kecmanovic 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 22 minutes.

"[I'm] definitely very happy. Obviously playing Miomir, I knew it was going to be a tough match. I played him a lot of times in juniors and in pros, so I knew what a grind and what a battle it was going to be, so I'm really happy to get through," said Shapovalov, who reached the semi-finals in Chengdu last week. "It was definitely a tough first-round match. Arriving late here, not much time to practise, but I felt good, I was serving good and hopefully that continues."

Shapovalov hit 16 aces and saved all five break points he faced against the World No. 51, breaking once per set to advance to the second round in Tokyo for the second consecutive year. It was another strong performance in a city where last year, he defeated former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka. Although Shapovalov is only 20, the Japanese fans support him as if they've been cheering for him for more than a decade.

"It's amazing. I feel like the vibe, the fans are always with me here from the first time I came here. Two years ago I didn't play the tournament, but I was practising and there were so many fans coming to watch me and support me," Shapovalov said. "I feel like every year my fanbase just grows bigger and bigger here. So it's really an honour. I feel like they're such nice fans as well, they're really respectful."

Kecmanovic will have been motivated after Shapovalov defeated him 6-2, 6-3 in August at the Winston-Salem Open. But the Canadian never gave the youngest player in the Tokyo field an edge.

The 20-year-old Shapovalov will next face 2017 champion David Goffin or last week’s Chengdu winner, Pablo Carreno Busta, for a spot in the quarter-finals. Both players have cracked the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings over the course of their career.

Did You Know
Shapovalov has already made three ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals, and one in three consecutive years. This season, the lefty made the last four in Miami.

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