Photo : St. Petersburg Open
It was double disappointment for Canada on Friday as both Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov were eliminated in the quarter-finals of their respective tournaments.
Auger-Aliassime battled with world No. 4 Alexander Zverev for over two hours in the quarter-finals of Vienna, finally falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while Shapovalov was sent packing in straight sets by Jan-Lennard Struff in St. Petersburg.
It was Auger-Aliassime’s first meeting with the German since their epic five-setter at Wimbledon in July and the pair picked up where they left off, taking big swings at each other for three very tight sets.
The Canadian rained a dozen aces and 25 winners on his opponent, but also committed 25 unforced errors. The first serve was key for Auger-Aliassime, who won 87 percent of points when he made it, but only 36 percent when he missed.
He managed to save six of the eight break points he faced in the match, but only created one, although he converted it, as Zverev won 82 percent of his first serve points and 70 percent of his seconds.
One bad game from Auger-Aliassime was the difference in the opening set. In the third game, the Canadian struggle to keep the ball in the court, giving away an easy break to go down 2-1.
Zverev was dominant on his own serve in the opening set, only losing two points, and gave Auger-Aliassime no chances to get back into the set, taking it 6-4.
The second set started out even, but as the set went along, errors began to creep into Zverev’s game and the German became visibly frustrated.
After cruising on serve all day, Zverev finally showed a crack when Auger-Aliassime reached break point for the first time all day at 4-3 in the second set. The German sent a routine forehand long to surrender the break.
Auger-Aliassime was not about to pass up the opportunity to extend the match, easily holding to love in the following game to send it to a deciding set.
A dramatic sixth game in the decider saw Auger-Aliassime face six break points on his own serve. Zverev failed to put a return in play on the first five, with the Canadian striking three aces and two more big serves, but when Auger-Aliassime missed his first serve on the sixth, his opponent took advantage and drew an error at the net from the Canadian to go up 4-2.
Just like the previous two sets, one break was enough as Zverev hung on to take the set and the match.
The loss is a blow to Auger-Aliassime’s hopes of qualifying for the ATP Finals, but the Canadian still has a shot with 1000 points up for grabs next week at the Masters 1000 event in Paris.
Shapovalov topped again by Struff in St. Petersburg
As for Shapovalov, consistency was the difference maker as Struff only committed 13 unforced errors while Shapovalov had 22. Both men had 13 winners, four aces and four double faults.
They also both saved four break points, but Shapovalov only converted one while being broken four times. He also only won 45 percent of his second serve points. Struff was dominant on his first serve, only losing three points when he nailed his first delivery.
Struff has now won five of their seven career meetings. Many of their matches have been close, with four going three sets, but that was not the case in St. Petersburg as the German jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back, overpowering his young opponent on his was to a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
It was a nightmare start to the match for Shapovalov, as he was broken to love in the opening game. Struff broke serve twice in the first 20 minutes as he raced out to a 4-0 lead.
Shapovalov managed to turn things around, going on a three-game run of his own by reclaiming one of the breaks and saving a couple more break points to get back to within a game at 4-3, but that was as close as the Canadian would get.
He was unable to get the second break back and Struff managed to ride his serve through the remainder of the opening set, which he took 6-4.
The Canadian got off to a better start in the second set, hanging with Struff for the first four games, but the consistency was not there and he was broken to go down 3-2.
Once the German pulled ahead, the result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Shapovalov had no answer for the German’s powerful, consistent hitting and failed to generate a break-back opportunity. He was broken again serving to stay in the match at 3-5 to bring his tournament to an end.
Shapovalov has pulled out of the Masters 1000 event next week in Paris. Next up for the Canadian will be his first ever title defence as he returns to the Stockholm Open for the first time since lifting his first trophy there in 2019.