Photo : Martin Sidorjak
On a wet day in Melbourne where the elements wreaked havoc on the order of play, Denis Shapovalov was able to overcome the distractions and joined Félix Auger-Aliassime in the third round of the Australian Open with a straight-set win over Taro Daniel.
Bianca Andreescu was not as lucky as she suffered a heart-breaking defeat from match point up to Spanish qualifier Cristina Busca, leaving Leylah Annie Fernandez as the only Canadian woman left in the singles draw.
Once Shapovalov was able to take to the court after the match was pushed several hours by a rain delay and a preceding match going the distance, the 20th seed was able to overcome some streaky moments and played his best tennis when he needed to on his way to a 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-5 win.
The serve was a bit erratic for Shapovalov, who had nine aces and won 78 per cent of his first serve while also striking nine double faults and putting just 56 per cent of first serves in play. In the rallies, he was the aggressor hitting 53 winners to Daniel’s eight. Despite hitting 55 unforced errors, his opponent had the far worse ratio with 34 unforced errors to go with his low winner count.
Critically, Shapovalov played the big points better, converting six of his nine break point opportunities while saving five of eight on his own serve.
An early turning point came at 2-3 in the first set, when the Canadian fell behind love-40 on his serve but bailed himself out with some incredible hitting, including a gutsy drop shot winner at 30-40.
That hold flipped the momentum and kicked off a run of four straight games for Shapovalov. He scored the first break of the match with a perfect forehand passing shot winner for a 4-3 lead and then broke again to wrap up the opening set.
Daniel quickly stopped the run with a break to start the second set courtesy of a Shapovalov double fault. However, Shapovalov immediately responded with his third consecutive break of serve.
Throughout the second and third sets, both men struggled to pull away when they got the advantage. Shapovalov broke to love to take a 3-1 lead, only to hit back-to-back double faults in the next game to gift the Japanese a break back.
However, the 20th seed did manage to go on a run at the perfect time, winning five straight points from 2-3 in the second set tiebreak to establish a two-set lead.
Like the second set, Daniel struck first in the third with a break for 3-1. But also like the second set, Shapovalov immediately broke back when the Japanese played an error-filled game to blow his lead.
Just when it seemed like the third set was also destined for a tiebreak, the Canadian made his move. At 5-5 Daniel had four points to hold serve, including a 40-15 lead, but a trio of Shapovalov winners and a double fault kept the game going. Persistence paid off for Shapovalov when Daniel misfired on the first break point.
Shapovalov took full advantage, closing out the win with a hold to love.
The Canadian is through to the third round in Melbourne for the third year in a row. He will meet 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz in the next round. The Pole leads their head-to-head 3-1, with all four meetings taking place on hard courts, but they have not played in nearly two years with the last matchup coming in Miami in 2021.
Andreescu falls victim to qualifier comeback
Taking to the court many hours after their originally-scheduled start time due to an extensive rain delay, Bianca Andreescu got off to a quick start and seemed well on her way to a high-profile third round clash with world No. 1 Iga Świątek, but she was unable to seal the deal against Cristina Busca and fell in three sets.
The match looked to be all Andreescu when she cruised through the first set, had an early break in the second and then a match point in the second set tiebreak, but Busca refused to go away and it ended up being the Spaniard setting a date with the top seed after a 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 comeback win.
Consistency in the key moments was a deciding factor in the match as Andreescu committed 20 of her 53 unforced errors in the third set, while Busca had just 11 in the decider. Overall, the pair had nearly identical winner-to-unforced error counts with 31 winners apiece and a 50 (Busca) to 53 (Andreescu) edge to the Spaniard on unforced errors.
Andreescu got off to a flying start, winning five games in a row to take a 5-1 lead in the first set. She then ripped a forehand winner to break in the opening game of the second set and seemingly take control of the match.
That’s when Busca woke up. Now it was the Spaniard’s turn to reel off five straight games as errors began to creep into the Canadian’s pattern of play.
After Busca immediately broke back, Andreescu double-faulted on break point in her next service game to go behind in the second set. Two games later, the Canadian committed five unforced errors to allow a third straight break.
But the roles reversed again as, from 5-1 up and serving for the second set, Busca suddenly could not find the court. She gave away a break with errors, also missing a set point when some big forehands from the Canadian blew her off the court, which kicked off a run for Andreescu who managed to level the set at 5-5.
The tiebreak was back-and-forth but Andreescu had a chance to get off the court when she held match point at 6-5. But the errors that haunted her throughout the second and third sets got the better of the Canadian, erasing that opportunity.
Busca went on to convert her third set point, second of the breaker, and then broke immediately to start the deciding set.
Andreescu did manage to break in the fourth game, only to give the lead right back to the Spaniard which this time proved decisive as the Canadian missed break points in the six at tenth games.
It is a third loss consecutive second-round loss at the Australian Open for Andreescu, who has reached and lost in that round in each of her appearances at Melbourne Park.