Denis SHapovalov practice Australian Open 2022

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Denis Shapovalov kicks off his Grand Slam season in Melbourne, Australia, with a hard-earned victory over Laslo Djere of Serbia. After losing his opening service game, Shapovalov recovered brilliantly and defeated his Serbian opponent by a score of 7-6(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3).

It was the second meeting between the Canadian and Djere. Last spring, Shapovalov won their first contest 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Gonet Geneva Open. After today’s victory, Shapovalov improves his Australian Open record to 6-4, while his opponent’s record drops to 0-5.

Shapovalov didn’t have his best start in today’s match. He committed two double faults in his opening service game, one of them on break point, to gift Djere the early break advantage. However, his struggles in the first set were short-lived, as the World No. 14 flipped the switch, fended off two set points, and broke his opponent back in the 10th game.

Both players won their remaining service game to send the first set to a tiebreak. Shapovalov, who won his first tiebreak of the year against Jan-Lennard Struff at the ATP Cup, hasn’t lost a tiebreak since his semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. He kept his streak alive, winning the tiebreak by a score of 7-3.

Shapovalov’s impressive comeback gave him the momentum heading into the second set. In the second set, he won 77 per cent of service points (93 per cent on first serves), broke Djere on his lone opportunity, and didn’t allow the Serb a chance to strike back.

The Canadian kept applying pressure in the third set and gave himself two break point chances in the opening game. However, the tenacious Djere turned both chances aside to avoid going down two sets and a break. In the very next game, it was Djere who showed off his returning skills as he broke Shapovalov to take a 2-0 lead. Shapovalov couldn’t break back, and the match needed a fourth set.

In the fourth set, Shapovalov had a chance to serve for the match in the ninth game, but he wasn’t able to hold. The Serb and Shapovalov then exchanged breaks in the 11th and 12th games to send yet another set to a tiebreak. The Canadian, who’s been clinical in tiebreaks, took it by a score of 7-3 to claim his fourth victory of the year.

It wasn’t the prettiest win for Shapovalov, as he struggled to keep his first serves in play and committed 68 unforced errors. But, great players find ways to win, even when they aren’t playing at their best.

Shapovalov will face Soon-woo Kwon in the second round.