Denis Shapovalov smiles and holds up a ball in Geneva

Photo : Gonet Geneva Open

Denis Shapovalov is peaking at the perfect time on the red dirt with the French Open right around the corner.

The Canadian advanced to his first clay-court final with a win over Pablo Cuevas on Friday at the Gonet Geneva Open in straight sets 6-4, 7-5.

Shapovalov has historically struggled in semi-finals, with a record of 1-10 (and one walkover) coming into this match, but was at the top of his game in Geneva, overwhelming his 35-year-old opponent with his heavy hitting and breaking serve four times to advance to his third career ATP Tour final.

The 22-year-old is 1-1 in finals in his career and will be looking to add on to his 2019 victory in Stockholm (d. Krajinovic).

Rain threatened to postpone the match, as the players were forced to leave the court briefly after the warmup as the precipitation intensified.

The match was able to begin, but Shapovalov was visibly unhappy with being forced to play in rain he deemed to be too heavy. Despite complaints to the chair umpire, play continued.

If Shapovalov was frustrated, it did not affect his game as he dominated the rallies early, ripping a huge return followed by a backhand winner to break for a 3-2 lead.

Cuevas fought back to level at 4-all, only for the Canadian to break right back in the very next game and consolidated to take the opening set.

Shapovalov had a few chances to grab an early lead in the second set, holding break points in each Cuevas’ first two service games, but could not convert.

He paid the price for the misses when Cuevas broke for a 4-2 lead, but finally managed a breakthrough in the next game to get back on serve.

At 5-5, Shapovalov grabbed the decisive break, tricking Cuevas with a backhand back behind him that caught the line for a winner.

The second seed was forced to save a break point while serving for the match, but was up to the task, surviving with an impressive serve-and-volley before closing out the match with a big serve.

After some shaky moments earlier in the week, Shapovalov was much more consistent on serve in this match, putting 67 percent of his first serves in play, winning 75 percent of those points, and only committed three double faults, his lowest total of the week.

He also won 58 percent of Cuevas’ second serve points.

Shapovalov improves to 2-10 in semi-finals and will meet fellow 22 year old Casper Ruud in the final.

Fernandez falters

Over in Belgrade, Leylah Fernandez was not so lucky, falling in three sets to Viktoriya Tomova in the second round of the Serbia Ladies Open.

The match, originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, had been delayed two days due to rain.

Fernandez led by a break in each of the first two sets, but only managed to hold onto the lead in the second. In the final set, Tomova broke the Canadian’s serve four times to advance to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

The Canadian teen will play one more warm-up event next week in Strasburg before the French Open.