Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Luciano Darderi outlasted Denis Shapovalov 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 in a lengthy affair to advance to the second round of the Italian Open.

In a dramatic showdown on Centre Court at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, it was the world number 54 who delivered under pressure, escaping with a nail-biting three set victory in 3 hours, 10 minutes.

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Little separated the two players in a lengthy opening set. They first exchanged breaks of serve to open the match, before Shapovalov was able to gain the early scoreboard advantage, 3-1.

Buoyed by the partisan Italian crowd, Darderi responded by winning the next three games. The match stayed on even terms until an opening set tiebreak.

The 25-year-old from Richmond Hill established the upper hand with an early 4-2 lead, and then won a crucial 24-ball rally to forge ahead 6-3. He sealed matters, firing one of his 15 opening set winners to close it out, 7-6 (4) in 1 hour, 14 minutes.

In the second set, the Italian ramped up his aggression, using his powerful groundstrokes to control play from the back of the court.

Meanwhile, Shapovalov, a former Italian Open semifinalist in 2020, struggled with his timing, frequently spraying errors and missing serves.

At 2-2, two unforced errors from the Canadian gave the break of serve to Darderi.

The Italian closed the set with another break of serve, finishing with a winner at the net to win the second 6-3 in 38 minutes.

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Darderi initially remained the more consistent player in the third set, and was rewarded with his play, getting the first break for a 4-2 lead.

Shapovalov was not deterred, responding with a break of his own by hitting two clean winners and then holding serve for 4-all.

The twists and turns continued through the late stages of the match. The Canadian outlasted his opponent in a nine-minute game, breaking for a 5-4 lead.

However, Darderi, at the urging of the crowd, refused to wilt, breaking for 5-all. Meanwhile, Shapovalov took a hard fall to clay, getting assistance from a ball girl to wipe the red dirt off his arms.

The players then traded holds of serve, and Shapovalov escaped a 0-30 score to even the third set at 6-6, sending matters to a tiebreak.

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With the crowd firmly behind its Italian player, Darderi played great tennis in the waning moments, hitting two clean winners to move ahead 5-3.

A final forehand into net from Shapovalov secured the victory for the Italian in three sets.