Shapovalov Delighted With Form; 10 Youngsters Into Third Round
Popyrin advances after strong performance against Thiem
Denis Shapovalov pumped his left fist in celebration on Thursday as he booked his place in the Australian Open third round for the first time. The 19-year-old #NextGenATP Canadian recorded the 50th tour-level match win of his career (50-42) with victory over Taro Daniel of Japan 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3 in two hours and eight minutes.
Shapovalov, the No. 25 seed, will next challenge World No. 1 and six-time former champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in a first-time meeting.
Looking forward to Saturday, Shapovalov admitted, “It's awesome. Novak is definitely one of the big guys I really admired and looked up to growing up. It's definitely going to be awesome, just awesome to play against him, see how my game matches up against his. Honestly, there's no pressure on me now. Obviously, he's the favorite to win. I'm just going to go out there, give it my best shot, and see what happens.
“Now I feel like I'm actually there and able to compete with these guys. I'm going to really study his game, see what I can do, where I can break him down. Obviously, he doesn't have a lot of holes, being the World No. 1. It's not like the guy has major holes. But I'm definitely going to try to really take it to him. Like I said, I've been playing really good tennis. I'm serving really big. If I can continue that, then I'll have a fighting chance.”
Shapovalov is one of 10 players aged 22 and under at the Australian Open to have reached the third round. The most players aged 22-and-under to feature in a Grand Slam championship third round was 11 at Roland Garros in 2008. This year marks the most at the Australian Open since 11 in 2004.
Shapovalov broke Daniel in the eighth game of the first set, then saved break points at 1-1 and 4-4 in the second set, before taking control early in the tie-break. In breaking Daniel for a 3-1 lead in the third set, Shapovalov then recovered from 15/40 in the next game. Overall, the World No. 27 struck 43 winners, including 16 aces in his first encounter against Daniel.
“I think it was another exceptional match for me,” said Shapovalov. “I'm really happy to get through that in straight sets. I wasn't expecting that, to be honest. I felt in the second set he had a couple chances. I was able to play some big tennis. I'm really proud today. After I got that tie-break in the second set, I knew that the momentum was kind of with me, so I just tried to stay on it.”
Another 19-year-old making waves at Melbourne Park, Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin, also booked his place in the third round for the first time on his second Grand Slam championship appearance (also 2018 Australian Open). The World No. 149, who beat Germany’s Mischa Zverev on Tuesday, was leading 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 when seventh-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem retired due to illness.
Popyrin will now prepare to challenge French No. 28 seed Lucas Pouille, who knocked out Maximilian Marterer of Germany 7-6(8), 7-6(8), 5-7, 6-4 in three hours and 22 minutes. Pouille saved one set point at 6/7 in the first set tie-break and two set points at 5/6 and 7/8 in the second set tie-break.
“It’s never easy seeing an opponent retire like that, especially Domi,” said Popyrin. “He's a great guy. But I was just trying to keep focused, just trying to keep concentrated in the match [and] play my game… It hasn't sunk in yet [that I’m in the third round]. I'm just going to keep looking forward, just preparing for the next round… I didn't really feel much pressure, to be honest. I just wanted to go out there and enjoy the moment, just soak in the experience really. The crowd was amazing, like always.”
The 22-year-old Borna Coric also advanced on day four by converting all four of his break point chances to defeat Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 16 minutes. The No. 11 seed from Croatia now meets Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, who defeated Evgeny Donskoy of Russia 6-4, 7-6(8), 7-6(2).
Six other players aged 22 and under are through to the third round, including fourth-seeded German Alexander Zverev, Russian No. 10 seed Karen Khachanov, Greek No. 14 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion, and Russian No. 15 seed Daniil Medvedev. In addition, Taylor Fritz, who will take on six-time champion Roger Federer, and his fellow American Frances Tiafoe, plus, Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who is set to face 2009 titlist Rafael Nadal and captured his first ATP Tour title last week at the Sydney International, are also through.