There was much intrigue heading into yet another Clash of Canadians in the US Open first round but, ultimately, it was Denis Shapovalov that came out on top. The 20-year-old advanced after beating friend and 18th seed Félix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. Shapovalov, ranked No. 33, now leads the series between the pair 2-1.

This was the first time the Canadian youngsters had faced each other since the Madrid Open in May, when Auger-Aliassime claimed a 6-2, 7-6(7) victory over Shapovalov. It was also exactly a year to the day since the duo met at the same stage of the US Open in 2018, when Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire from the match, with the score at 7-5, 5-7, 4-1 in Shapovalov’s favour, as he was suffering from heart palpitations.

The Montrealer is no stranger to competing against his fellow Canadians having come up against his countrymen on no less than four occasions this season prior to this match. That includes twice at Rogers Cup where he was pitted against Vasek Pospisil in the first round and Milos Raonic in the second. He was also due to face Raonic at the Stuttgart Open but the 28-year-old pulled out to due injury.

On the back of a semi-finals appearance at Winston-Salem, a confident-looking Shapovalov took command of this match early. The 20-year-old broke Auger-Aliassime’s serve three times in a row to round off a convincing 6-1 first set victory. The second set was almost identical with Shapovalov looking steady while Auger-Aliassime struggled to keep the ball on the court. It again finished 6-1.

The final set saw Auger-Aliassime find some rhythm and he manufactured three break-point opportunities on Shapovalov’s serve in the sixth game. Unfortunately for him, though, those chances passed him by and it was his opponent who struck a deciding blow when he forced another crucial break. That meant Shapovalov was in a position to serve for the match, which he did unerringly, sealing a 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 victory and his place in the second round.

Meanwhile, over on Court 7, Brayden Schnur (No. 92) was taking on Frenchman Benoit Paire (No. 26) in what was the duo’s first-ever meeting. There was a worrying moment for Schnur as early as the second game as he called a medical time out to get treatment after taking a fall – but the 24-year-old persevered and was able to continue.

Perhaps the injury took its toll on Schnur, though, as he dropped his serve twice in the first set, which he would go on to lose 6-2. The second set began with three consecutive breaks of serve, although two were in favour of Paire, giving him a 3-1 lead, which he would not relinquish.

It was a similar story in the third set as Schnur went down an early break. Despite the Canadian’s best efforts, and some slick tennis, he was unable to turn the tide of the match, leading to his early exit from the tournament thanks to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 loss.

(Feature photo: Mauricio Paiz)