In his final round robin match at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Canadian Denis Shapovalov faced the tough task of opposing the tournament’s top seed, world no. 37 Andrey Rublev of Russia. The stakes were high, as the winner of the match would advance to Friday’s semi-finals.
In the end, it was Rublev who booked his ticket to the semi-finals in Milan with a 4-1, 3-4(8), 4-3(2), 0-4, 4-3(3) victory over Shapovalov.
In the opening set, the young Canadian struggled on his serve, committing an untimely double fault as well as a number of costly errors. Rublev needed only sixteen minutes to take the first set 4-1. After dropping the set, Shapovalov went to the coaching headset to get some advice from his coach Martin Laurendeau, who notably encouraged him to be more expressive and show more energy on the court.
Following the advice of his coach, Shapovalov came out strong in the second set, showing more intensity and reducing the number of errors. The Canadian managed to convert on his ninth set point to take the second in a tiebreak, roaring with delight on his way back to the bench.
After consulting Laurendeau once again following the end of the set, Shapovalov got off to a flying start and got the opening break. Despite being broken right back in the following service game, the 18-year-old Canadian exhibited much more energy on the court. The set required a tiebreak once again, but this time is was Rublev who emerged victorious.
While the Russian received medical treatment, Shapovalov once again consulted his coach, this time engaging in a humorous discussion about the quality of the coffee in Italy and tan lines among other things. Despite the intense competition, Shapovalov was clearly enjoying his experience in Milan.
“I just noticed that DJ to your left – has he been there all week?”
“Yeh, he’s playing some sick beats”
— Next Gen ATP Finals (@nextgenfinals) November 9, 2017
Evidently feeling more relaxed on court, the Canadian pushed his opponent to a final decisive set. He was ultimately unable to move past his heavy hitting opponent, who will move on to the semi-finals on Friday.
Although Shapovalov and Rublev had never previously met on the professional tour, they have had very similar seasons. Both players broke into the ATP Top 50 for the first time in their careers in 2017, mainly thanks to their deep runs at the US Open, where Shapovalov reached the fourth round and Rublev made it to the quarter-finals.
Two of the brightest rising stars on the ATP World Tour, Rublev and Shapovalov have posted impressive victories this season against some of the sport’s top players. The young Russian notably defeated Grigor Dimitrov (no. 9) and David Goffin (no. 14) in 2017. For his part, Shapovalov has victories over Juan Martin del Potro (no. 31), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (no. 12) and Rafael Nadal (no. 2) this season.
It was not all bad news for Shapovalov on Thursday, as the ATP announced that the young Canadian was voted Most Improved Player of the Year.
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) November 9, 2017