Denis Shapovalov proved that he can win a match even when he’s not playing his best tennis.
That was the case Tuesday when Canada’s top prospect for the future fought off four match points in a second-set tiebreaker and defeated Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in the first round of the Rogers Cup Canadian Open tennis championships.
“It was pretty tough out there, tough conditions,” said the 18-year-old Shapovalov, who has reached the second round in each of the past two years. “Dutra Silva is a real fighter. I was struggling a little bit with the rhythm on my serve, I wasn’t putting a lot of (first serves) in the first two sets or first set and a half. Then I kind of found my range in the tiebreaker.
This wasn’t a vintage serving game for the left-handed Shapovalov. He put only 50 per cent of his first serves into play, but he came up with the big shots when he needed them. He had four of his 12 aces in the tiebreaker and ended the match with a wide service winner, which forced Dutra Silva off the court on the ad side.
Shapovalov took control of the deciding set when he broke Dutra Silva’s serve for a 4-3 lead. The Brazilian fell behind 15-40 and Shapovalov ripped a backhand winner for the break.
Shapovalov had to dig deep to survive the second-set tiebreaker. He fell behind 3-0 before delivering a pair of aces. Dutra Silva had two match points at 6-4, but an unforced error erased one point and Shapovalov pulled even with a half-volley drop shot for a winner.
A backhand winner and an ace by Shapovalov allowed the Canadian to fight off the other match points and Dutra Silva double-faulted to give Shapovalov a 10-8 win in the tiebreaker.
Shapovalov said the match points were a blur, but he remembered saving the third one.
“I remember I was pretty far back and I went for a backhand down the line, which was pretty good,” Shapovalov said. “I wasn’t holding back. I just told myself: He’s got to win it from me, I’m not going to give it to him. Yeah, I think I did a good job to stay tough out there.”
Shapovalov said the crowd, which included hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, gave him a lift and probably put extra pressure on Dutra Silva.
Next up for Shapovalov is Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. That match slated for centre court Wednesday afternoon after Roger Federer plays against Canadian Peter Polansky.
Shapovalov wasn’t the only player who had to dig deep for a spot in the second round. Pablo Carreno Busta, the 11th seed from Spain outlasted Karen Khachanov of Russia 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and ninth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. American serving machine Sam Querrey needed 18 aces and three sets to eliminate French qualifier Vincent Millot 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 and Korean Hyeon Chung beat Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 4-6, 7-6.
Jack Sock, the 15th-seeded American, defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 7-6 (4), 6-3 and South African Kevin Anderson beat Israeli qualifier Dudi Sela 6-3, 7-6 (1).
There’s no shortage of star power on centre court Wednesday. In the evening, Canadian Milos Raonic, the No. 6 seed, faces France’s Adrian Mannarino after top-seeded Rafael Nadal plays Croatian Borna Coric.
In doubles action Tuesday, 44-year-old Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil lost to the Spanish team of Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 10-2. The other Canadian team of Frank Dancevic and Adil Shamasdin lost to Frenchman Fabrice Martin and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 6-2.