Clay isn’t so bad, eh Denis?
Two days after earning his first tour-level victory on clay courts, Denis Shapovalov earns another at the Mutua Madrid Open, this time over the experienced Benoit Paire of France. The two were evenly matched in a scintillating contest of shot-making and all-court tennis, but it was the Canadian who was able to prevail, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 in two hours, nine minutes in front of a packed Estadio 3 crowd.
The first set couldn’t have been tighter, with Shapovalov curiously opting to target Paire’s superior backhand side in an attempt to break it down. Although the 19-year-old was broken at 4-4, his tactic eventually paid dividends as Paire was unable to serve out the set – and not long after, Shapovalov was able to steal it for himself in the tiebreak on a blistering backhand winner.
.@denis_shapo unleashes a ripper backhand to take the first set in a tiebreak 7-6(5).
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 8, 2018
In the second set, the two big-hitting players kept the score close, until three straight breaks of serve and a couple of loose Shapovalov errors eventually went in Paire’s favour. With the a spot in the third round on the line, it was the No. 43-ranked Canadian who seized control of the final set. Thanks to a couple of blistering winners and deep backhands down the centre, he was able to earn a crucial break in the fifth game and eventually serve out the win.
At 29 years old, Paire knows how to compete at the top levels of the sport and has had some of his best results on clay courts – so this win should be particularly sweet for Shapovalov, who only got his first taste of clay-court success just two days ago.
Up next for the #NextGen rising star is the winner of the blockbuster matchup between Grigor Dimitrov and compatriot Milos Raonic. Against Dimitrov, Shapovalov trails the head-to-head 0-1, having lost to the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champ following his first-ever ATP World Tour win at Rogers Cup two years ago. A meeting with Raonic would be their first – but hopefully not their last.
(Feature photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)