Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
The Canadian contingent at the 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia may be small, but they are mighty.
Both Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, the only two Canadians competing in singles in Rome this year, were victorious on Tuesday with identical 6-1, 6-3 wins.
Auger-Aliassime scored a major upset by taking down the eighth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, the 2020 Rome runner-up, in their second-round meeting.
The Montreal native struck 11 winners and broke serve five times to claim his first win over a Top 10 opponent since 2019, and first over a Top 10 opponent not named Stefanos Tsitsipas.
With the rain coming down, Auger-Aliassime raced out of the gate, immediately grabbing a 3-0 lead in the opening set, aided by a Schwartzman double fault on break point in the second game.
The Canadian was in full control and refused to be drawn into errors by his speedy opponent. His reward was a second break in the sixth game and he wrapped up the opening set 6-1 with an emphatic hold to love.
From 1-1 in the second set, the returners briefly established themselves with three consecutive breaks of serve.
Auger-Aliassime struck first, only to see his level drop for the first time in the match to give the break right back to Schwartzman. However, he immediately got his game back and broke to love.
The break put the momentum firmly back in the Canadian’s corner, and he would keep his level high for the remainder of the match, while Schwartzman could not keep up. Auger-Aliassime booked his place in the third round after just 63 minutes with one final break, courtesy of the Argentine’s sixth double-fault on match point.
While Auger-Aliassime was the more dominant player in the match, he benefited from a substandard performance from his opponent. Schwartzman only managed one winner while committing 25 unforced errors.
Earlier in the day, Shapovalov, who lost to Schwartzman in the Rome semi-finals last fall, cruised into the second round, needing just over an hour to beat Polish qualifier Kamil Majchrzak in straight sets.
The Richmond Hill-native overcame a shaky first serve, of which he only put 50 percent in play, by striking his groundstrokes with ruthless efficiency and bullying his opponent around the court from start to finish.
Shapovalov, the 13th seed in Rome, wasted little time in seizing control in the opening set. After Majchrzak held in the opening game for 1-0, it was one-way traffic for the Canadian who won six straight games to take the first set 6-1 in only 29 minutes.
The momentum carried over into the second set as the 22-year-old again broke early, stretching his run to nine consecutive games to take a 3-0 lead.
The only hiccup came as Shapovalov looked to serve out the match at 5-1 in the second set, where he sandwiched a pair of unforced errors with two double faults to hand Majchrzak a break back.
However, it would not be enough for the Pole, as Shapovalov served his way to victory two games later, booking his place in the second round with a massive forehand winner.
Majchrzak had no answer for his opponent’s power throughout the match, regularly finding himself being stretched side-to-to by Shapovalov.
Shapovalov will meet local wildcard Stefano Travaglia in round two, while Auger-Aliassime awaits the winner between Frederico Delbonis and 12th seed Davis Goffin.