For any Canadian tennis fan who braved the overnight blockbuster between Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime, it won’t have been coffee that kept them awake. No, it’ll have been the quality on show on Margaret Court Arena as two of Canada’s own put on a delightful display of tennis. Ultimately, Auger-Aliassime came out on top, beating Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to secure his place in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
This meeting between two of the country’s brightest stars was the fifth time two Canadian men have faced each other at a Grand Slam in the Open Era. In fact, it is the first to occur as late as the third round. Heading into the match, Shapovalov held the upper hand in terms of results in their previous meetings. The Ontarian had beaten Auger-Aliassime at the US Open in 2018 and 2019, while the Montrealer claimed victory at the Madrid Open two years ago.
In the past, their matches haven’t quite lived up to the hype, but not so this time as the first set started with a welcome intensity from both players. Shapovalov went up a break to make it *4-3 but Auger-Aliassime broke back immediately before clinching the set 7-5 on his second set point on his opponent’s serve.
The ebb and flow of the match will have taken any viewer’s breath away. Again, Shapovalov broke first to take a *3-2 lead in the second set, but the momentum soon shifted the way of Auger-Aliassime as the 20-year-old hit an incredible passing forehand on the stretch to clinch a break of his own at the end of a thrilling point to make it 4-4.
A long backhand by Shapovalov set up a set point for Auger-Aliassime at 6-5* – and he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity. The Montrealer hit a monster return that forced Shapovalov wide, before dispatching a clean forehand cross-court to seal the break. As the commentator on TSN put it: “big return, big forehand, big moment”.
It would only be a “big moment” if Auger-Aliassime continued his stellar play. And he did.
The youngster jumped out of the traps at the start of the third set, clinching the first game on his serve before breaking Shapovalov’s at the first time of asking as the blonde-haired Canadian hit a return into the net at the end of a vintage point.
Auger-Aliassime was really turning the screw and threatened to take what would likely have been an unassailable lead when he crafted three further break point opportunities at 3-0*. To Shapovalov’s credit, though, he kept his compatriot at bay, retaining his composure to win the game.
Fast-forward 20 minutes or so and Auger-Aliassime was serving for the set – and the match – at *5-3. It was a pressure moment for him, but he certainly didn’t show it. Up 40:0, the youngster was presented with three match points, although he needed just one – hitting an overhead smash to finish off Shapovalov and clinch a thrilling victory.
Meanwhile, Milos Raonic secured his place in the fourth round with a routine win over Marton Fucsovic. Having won the first set via a tiebreak, he then surprisingly lost the second to put a seed of doubt in the back of onlookers’ minds.
However, the Canadian regrouped, taking the third and fourth sets by a more-than convincing scoreline of 6-2, 6-2 to seal victory. Raonic won 84% of his first serve points and 63% on his second serve, while Fucsovics won 68% and 49% respectively – ultimately, telling the tale of the match.
Now, Raonic will face either World No. 1 Novak Djokovic – in what would be a mouth-watering meeting – or American and 27th-seed Taylor Fritz in the Round of 16.