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Shapo beats Berdych, becomes new Canadian No. 1

May 15, 2018
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada

Another day, another win on clay for Denis Shapovalov.

Before last week, it appeared that his relationship with clay was going to be a rocky one – but after reaching the semifinals at the Mutua Madrid Open, he’s bringing his confidence over onto the significantly-slower conditions on the dirt at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. If there’s anything that proves he’s learning the tools of the clay-court trade quickly, it’s today’s 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) comeback win over veteran Tomas Berdych in the first round.

Shapovalov got off to a rough start to the match, unable to hold serve until the sixth game of the first set in what felt like, at that point, a foregone conclusion. Perhaps it was the fatigue of his efforts from the previous week, but the Canadian was unable to find his range and dropped the set 6-1 to his experienced Czech opponent.

In the second set, Shapovlaov, who just this week made his debut in the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings, found his focus. With his first serve firing at 74%, he was able to relax in his return games, eventually securing his first break of the match and serving out the set with little trouble.

Berdych, however, is a former semifinalist in Rome and has finished seven of the last eight seasons within the Top 10 – it was inevitable that he’d up his game in the decisive set. Shapovalov had an opportunity on the Czech’s serve at 4-4, 0-30, but was unable to capitalize. After staring defeat in the face at deuce in the next service game, the 19-year-old was able to take the set to a tiebreak, where he dominated proceedings early on. Although Berdych managed to pull the tiebreak even at 5-5, a missed volley and an unforced error from the World No. 17 nhanded Shapovalov the match in a thrilling contest that lasted just over two hours.

The win confirms that Shapovalov will be Canada’s new No. 1-ranked singles player in the ATP Rankings next week, as compatriot Milos Raonic will be losing his quarterfinalist points from last year as a result of his withdrawal from Rome this week. Raonic, who has struggled with injury since reaching a career-high ranking of No. 3 in 2016, has held the top spot for Canada since 2010.

Next up for Shapovalov is will be a preview of the Canada-Netherlands Davis Cup tie this fall: Dutch No. 1 Robin Haase, who overcame Daniil Medvedev in his first match.

(Feature photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)