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Shapovalov’s clay season comes to a close

May 31, 2018
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada

If you asked Denis Shapovalov how he felt about clay-court tennis a month ago, he wouldn’t have had much to rave about. However, a month later, it’s safe to say his relationship with the slippery surface is coming along nicely.

Despite a 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4 loss to Germany’s Maximilian Marterer in the second round of Roland Garros, the season’s second Grand Slam event, Shapovalov has demonstrated that he has simultaneously learned a lot and is keen to learn a lot more when it comes to clay courts.

“I feel like in the future I could get really good on [clay]. I’m pretty excited about that,” said Shapovalov after the match. “I’m pretty excited to come back next year and play all these clay tournaments again.

“But it’s been more about not growing up on the surface, so I didn’t really know how to play on it. When you’re playing all these Europeans, they know exactly what to do on this court. Especially at the beginning, I was kind of getting lost in the rallies, [thinking] ‘how am I supposed to use my game to win these points, to win these matches?’

“So after I kind of figured that out, it’s gone a lot easier for me, and it’s given me that confidence and inner self-belief that I can play on these courts, and, yeah, that I can do well,” he added.

There wasn’t much between the two in the opening set, with both players putting on a clinic of angled shotmaking with their impressive left-handed groundstrokes. Shapovalov was able to generate a few break points early on, but his German opponent was able to navigate his way out of that service game and keep things close. Up 6-5, Shapovalov was able to take advantage of a pair of Marterer unforced errors, finally securing his first break – and with it, the first set.

The second set began with another early break, as the Canadian leaped out to an early 3-0 lead, but Marterer increased pressure on the wavering Shapovalov serve to win five games in a row. Although Shapovalov was able to reel Marterer back in to take the set to a tiebreak, he was unable to claim it and suddenly the match was levelled at a set apiece.

Shapovalov’s legs, which have done quite a bit of work in his unexpectedly successful clay-court season, appeared to weigh heavier as the match went on – and Marterer took full advantage. The German served big and stayed consistent from the baseline, wearing the 19-year-old Canadian down and winning the third set with a last-minute break of serve.

Despite generating a few chances to break the increasingly potent Marterer serve, the World No. 25 was unable to find the right returns when he needed them and eventually surrendered the match after three hours and 13 minutes of suspenseful tennis.

Ultimately, it was Shapovalov’s serve that let him down in the match, firing only 52% of first serves in, as well as hitting 11 untimely double faults. To his credit, he was able to strike an impressive 52 winners and claim 14 of 17 points played at the net – statistics that will serve him well in the coming grass court season.

(Feature photo: Peter Figura)

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