Photo: Australian Open
Denis Shapovalov demonstrated impressive resilience to forge a hard-fought, come-from-behind, five-set victory over Jannik Sinner, while Félix Auger-Aliassime steamrolled Cedrik-Marcel Stebe as both Canadians booked their places in the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The 21-year-old Shapovalov’s match against 2019’s Next Generation ATP Finals champion wasn’t without its peaks and troughs for the Canadian, who was forced to fight his way back from a one-set deficit after his Italian opponent won the first 6-3.
Sinner, fresh from winning just his second ATP Tour title in the previous week’s warm up event, and Shapovalov had never before faced one another prior to this matchup. Twenty rankings places separated the pair with the Canadian at No. 12 and Sinner at No. 32 heading into the year’s first Grand Slam.
Having fallen a set down early on, Shapovalov was determined to make amends – and he did so quickly in claiming the second set 6-3 thanks in most part to a break of Sinner’s serve to make it 5-3 before he served it out impeccably. It was a similar story in the third set as the Canadian seemed like a man on a mission – this time showing tremendous poise to win four games in a row from 2-2 to win the set 6-2.
The fourth was – as described by the broadcasters – a real “arm wrestle”. It started well for Shapovalov as he jumped out to a 3-1 lead thanks to an early break having forced deuce on Sinner’s serve. The Italian soon broke back, though, to level things up at 3-3.
As the set came to its climax, Sinner crafted three break point – and set point – opportunities on Shapovalov’s serve at 5-4. The Canadian managed to salvage the first two, but then hit into the net on the third to ensure the match went to a fifth and deciding set.
Shapovalov, who was striking clean forehands and making use of his signature, leaping backhand, crafted an early break of serve in the fifth set. On deuce, Sinner had advantage three times but couldn’t covert – Denis, meanwhile, took his chance at the first time of asking.
Sinner did his best to hang on and not let Shapovalov run away with proceedings. In fact, both players were solid throughout the final set with few real errors. It was Shapovalov who came out on top, though. Serving for the match, the Canadian had to withstand strong resistance from a determined Sinner, who even crafted a break point, before ultimately wrapping up his place in the next round, where he’ll face qualifier Bernard Tomic.
Earlier, on Court 13, Auger-Aliassime played impeccable tennis as he swept aside Stebe of Germany to seal his passage into the second round. A commanding 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 display saw the Canadian concede just one break of serve but in truth he never looked like breaking a sweat.
That first round victory will do the Montrealer the world of good following the disappointment of his loss to Dan Evans in Saturday’s final of the Murray River Open. He will now face Australia’s James Duckworth in the second round in Melbourne.