Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov lost their second round singles matches at the Mutua Madrid Open in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, both dropping third set tiebreaks at the conclusion of hard-fought battles to find themselves eliminated from the Spanish Masters 1000 tournament.
Shapovalov, seeded no. 21, put himself in a position to win against world no. 99 Zhang Zhizhen of China, but just couldn’t get himself across the finish line as he fell 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(1) in a spirited contest that featured dominant serving, big groundstrokes, and a lot of quick points.
The Canadian overcame a 1-4 deficit in the first set tiebreak by winning six consecutive points to take an all-important lead. He was rolling along in set two until he hit his first bump in the road in the third game and surrendered the first break of serve in the encounter. Zhizhen never surrendered the advantage and carried the momentum to a second set victory.
In the final frame, Shapovalov secured his first break of serve of the match in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and seemed well on his way to a much-needed win, but Zhizhen had other plans. He broke back right away in the next game even though Shapovalov led 30-0 and levelled proceedings once more. They remained on serve until 6-6 which meant that the contest would be decided in a final set tiebreak. After dropping the opening point, Zhizhen was the steadier and more opportunistic of the two players as he won seven straight points to earn one of the biggest triumphs of his career.
Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime, who is playing his first tournament since the Miami Open last month, faced one of the most in-form players on the ATP Tour in his first clay court match of the 2023 season at the Mutua Madrid Open on Saturday. Going up against world no. 40 Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, the Montreal native showed some rust and a whole lot of fight before ultimately falling 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) in the second round of the Spanish Masters 1000 event.
Lajovic, who finds himself on a seven-match win streak, came out firing in the opening set as Auger-Aliassime searched for his rhythm. The 22-year-old rebounded nicely in the second frame as he found his range off the ground, especially with his dynamite forehand and multiple clever drop shots. One break of serve was enough for him to win his first set in three matches against the Serb.
The final set was close from start to finish with both players showcasing their best stuff. They remained on serve until the decisive tiebreak when Lajovic jumped out to a quick double break lead at 5-0. Auger-Aliassime clawed his way back by saving three match points, but Lajovic sealed the deal at 6-5 with another effective serve out wide, a pattern of play that was so crucial to his victory.
This is Lajovic’s third Top 10 win over the last two weeks after he beat Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev en route to capturing the title at the ATP 250 tournament in Banja Luka. The veteran has now beaten Auger-Aliassime three times in as many matches, twice on hard courts and once on clay.
Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime will now shift their focus to doubles in Madrid. The compatriots have teamed up and will take on the sixth-seeded pair of Harri Heliövaara and Lloyd Glasspool in the second round on Sunday.
For her part, Leylah Annie-Fernandez, who lost her opening match in singles, advanced in women’s doubles on Saturday afternoon alongside American Taylor Townsend. The duo upset the second-seeded team of Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4.