Photo : Erste Bank Open
Tennis may not be a traditional team sport, but that does not mean that players cannot help each other out.
Denis Shapovalov provided a huge boost to countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday by eliminating Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
Fritz is currently trying to chase down Auger-Aliassime for the last ATP Finals qualifying. With the American’s defeat, Auger-Aliassime will go into next week’s Paris Masters, the last event before the year-end championship, in thorough control of his own destiny with a minimum lead of 315 points.
Wednesday’s win for Shapovalov was also revenge on Fritz for their meeting in the Tokyo semifinals earlier this month, which the American won in three sets.
In Vienna, the Canadian took advantage of some early sluggishness from his opponent and set the tone with some impressive shot-making. Even though Fritz played himself into form, Shapovalov was able to hang on for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory.
Shapovalov’s serve was clicking on Wednesday, as he fired 10 aces, only lost four points on his first serve and saved two of the three break points he faced. He also played a very clean match in the rallies, hitting 29 winners to just 11 unforced errors. Fritz did himself few favours by committing 22 unforced errors.
The two men could not have gotten off to more different starts in the match. Shapovalov was dialed in from the first ball, ripping everything in sight, while Fritz struggled to find the court.
A pair of forehand winners from deuce allowed the Canadian to break for a 2-1 lead and from there it was one-way traffic. He followed up with a break to love to make it 4-1 and then for good measure won four straight points to break for a third time and seal the set despite Fritz having led 30-love on his own serve.
Fritz committed 12 unforced errors in the opening set alone, which was more errors than the total points won by the American.
He cleaned up his act in the second set and was rewarded when Shapovalov missed a volley on the first break point he faced in the match to take the lead.
That lone break was the difference in the second set, even though Shapovalov saved a pair of set points on his own serve at 3-5, as a much more even set went the way of Fritz.
Despite dropping the second, a late push from Shapovalov gave him momentum heading into the deciding set. After Fritz needed a medical timeout for his foot, the Canadian managed to break serve for a 4-2 lead despite the American having been up 40-love. Fritz hit back-to-back backhands into the net to surrender the break.
In the Tokyo semis, Shapovalov had led by a break in the third set and could not hold on. But this time he had no problem holding his final two service games to complete the big win.
Shapovalov will play Brit Dan Evans in the quarter-finals. Evans leads their head-to-head 2-1 including a win earlier this year at the ATP Cup.