Photo : Jeff Donaldson
Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime are all too familiar with each other both on and off the court. But their friendship was given a new test on Friday at the BNP Paribas Open when they did battle in the doubles competition.
It was Shapovalov and his veteran partner Rohan Bopanna claiming victory, besting Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz in an exciting three-setter in the first round of Indian Wells.
Shapovalov and Bopanna came out on fire, racing through the opening set, but Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz returned the favour in the second. In the end, some sloppy play early in the tiebreak from the Montrealer made the difference as it was Shapovalov claiming the Clash of Canadians 6-1, 2-6, 10-4.
The first set was one-way traffic for Shapovalov and Bopanna, who broke Hurkacz in the opening game with a clean return winner. They did not look back, breaking twice more, once again on Hurkacz’s serve and when Auger-Aliassime served to stay in the set, taking it 6-1.
The Indian-Canadian pair were lights out in the opening set, winning 100 percent of their first serve points and converted all three of their break point chances.
Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz caught a break to start the second set at Shapovalov’s expense. Serving down love-40, Bopanna hit his second serve off of his partner’s head to surrender the break.
Hurkacz got a bit of revenge against Bopanna midway through the second set, teeing off on the Indian’s serve, just as Bopanna had done to him in the opening game, to grab a second break.
Two breaks was more than enough for Auger-Aliassime and his Polish partner, who took the set 6-2 without facing a break point, sending the match to a super tiebreak.
Back-to-back volleys into the net from Auger-Aliassime on his team’s serve at 2-3 proved costly, as it allowed Shapovalov and Bopanna to take a 5-2 lead which was ultimately decisive. They cruised through the remainder of the breaker, taking it 10-4 to reach the second round.
Shapovalov has another meeting with a fellow countryman in singles when he takes on Vasek Pospisil. Auger-Aliassime finds himself on the other side of the draw and will face either Lorenzo Musetti or Albert Ramos-Vinolas.