Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Since his impressive run at the 2022 Australian Open, Denis Shapovalov has struggled to find the form that saw him dominate the likes of world No. 18 Reilly Opelka and third-seeded Alexander Zverev in Melbourne.
After the Australian Open, the Canadian lost in the first round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament and the second round of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.
However, he had glimpses of his peak self this week in Dubai, as he made his first singles semi-finals appearance of the year.
In today’s semi-final match, Shapovalov faced world No. 123 Jiri Vesely. While most predicted that the Canadian would have a date with Djokovic in the final four, Vesely made sure that didn’t come to fruition as he stunned the Serb in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
It wasn’t going to be an easy match for Shapovalov against the red-hot Czech, and unfortunately, was ousted in the three-hour and 12-minute battle, 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(3).
Despite the shaky start and losing the first eight points to the 6-foot-6 Vesely, Shapovalov kept his cool and struck back in the fifth game on his first break point opportunity in the opening set. The set eventually went to a tiebreak and both players had a chance to seal the set. It was Shapovalov who got it done on the 16th point of the tiebreaker.
The tight battle continued in the second set and the only break point opportunity was turned aside by the Canadian. In the tiebreak, Vesely soared to a 5-1 lead and Shapovalov couldn’t get back within striking distance.
Onto the third set and things looked bleak for Shapovalov as he was down 4-3 and faced triple break points. But, the fiery Canadian spectacularly fended them all off, tied the set, and then broke Vesely’s serve in the following game. But, Vesely broke Shapovalov back immediately and the decider eventually needed yet another tiebreak
Just like the second set, the Czech had the stronger start to the tiebreak. He rode that wave all the way up to match point, clinching the match and his best finish at an ATP 500. Vesely’s cinderella story continues and will play Russian Andrey Rublev on Saturday for the Dubai Tennis Championship title.