It was a familiar sight in 2019. Canadians facing one another in the early rounds of tournaments across the world is a bitter-sweet event. On one hand, it provides the country’s tennis fans the thrill of seeing two of the nation’s best on some of the sport’s biggest stages. On the other, it guarantees one of the two will exit the event early.

In the first “Clash of Canadians” of 2020, it was Denis Shapovalov who emerged as the winner, defeating Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 7-6(2) in the round of 16 of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.

Shapovalov, ranked a career-high No. 13 on the ATP Tour, had never faced Pospisil (No. 146) at this level. Their only previous meeting on record was in 2017 in Guadalajara, Mexico during a Challenger and Futures match.

There wasn’t much to separate the duo, who are more accustomed to being teammates – having paired up in doubles multiple times on their way to the Davis Cup Final in November – than opponents, in the first set. An early break of serve by Shapovalov in just the third game would give him a vital advantage which he would retain in going on to claim it 6-4.

The second set, meanwhile, saw slightly more drama as the pair exchanged breaks in the seventh and eighth games to ensure it remained all square heading into a tiebreak. It was then that chaos ensued. There were five mini breaks in total, four of which went the way of Shapovalov ensuring he took home the victory – claiming the second set 7-6(2).

Next up, the 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario will face Ugo Humbert (No. 57) of France in the quarter-finals.

(Feature photo: ASB Classic)