Denis Shapovalov stretches to hit a backhand

Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Denis Shapovalov can take away many positives from this week in Geneva. But a winner’s trophy is not one of them.

Contesting the first clay-court final of his career, Shapovalov fell in straight sets to Norwegian Casper Ruud on Saturday at the Gonet Geneva Open 7-6(6), 6-4 in a high-quality final.

There was very little between the two men, who both showed off their superb ball striking throughout the match.

In the end, Ruud, contesting his fourth career final, all on clay, was steadier in the big moments, doing just enough to squeeze out a victory.

“I think he played more solid than me. He was better today,” said Shapovalov.

“He played super clean today. Honestly, he didn’t give me anything. He didn’t give me many looks or many opportunities, and today he was the better player for sure.”

The servers dominated the opening set, as neither player reached break point through the first twelve games.

Ironically, the first two points of the tiebreak went against the server.

After exchanging minibreaks, Shapovalov handed the initiative to Ruud when he committed back-to-back errors on his own serve, a missed low volley and a midcourt forehand wide, to go down 2-5.

The Norwegian had four set points at 6-2, but Shapovalov made one last push, winning four straight points to level the breaker at 6-all.

After an ace from Ruud set up a fifth set point, the Canadian missed a high volley to surrender the opening set after 55 minutes.

At 2-2 in the second set, Shapovalov’s service level began to dip and Ruud took advantage to reach break point for the first time in the match.

The Norwegian had five break points in the game, failing to put a return in play on the first four. But on the fifth, Shapovalov tried to race into the net and Ruud caught him with a low passing shot that the Canadian dumped into the net to surrender the first break of serve in the match.

That break would be the difference, as Ruud rode his serve all the way to the finish line and the title.

Once again, inconsistent serving hurt Shapovalov who, despite winning 78 percent of his first serve points, only put 49 percent of them in play.

As for his career-best run on clay this week with the French Open right around the corner, Shapovalov said, “I just think I’ve got to keep doing the same thing. Just playing my game. I’m playing a lot more relaxed now and more patient. For sure I’m playing good on the clay and it was definitely a great week for me.”

Ruud was simply too good on serve, winning 79 percent of his first serve points and 81 percent of his second. Shapovalov never held a break point in the match.

The Canadian falls to 1-2 in finals on the ATP Tour with the loss.