Photo: Gyles Dias

Two years after winning his first title in Stockholm, Denis Shapovalov returned to defend his title on Wednesday and won his fifth consecutive match in the Swedish capital, opening his campaign with a straight-sets win.

The Canadian looked comfortable in his return to the site of his lone title, dominating on serve and striking his groundstrokes effectively as he bullied qualifier Andrea Vavassori for 87 minutes in the 7-6(1), 6-1 victory.

Shapovalov set the tone early with his first serve, only dropping one of 21 points in the opening set when he made his first delivery and finished the match by winning 92 percent of them. The solid hitting extended to his groundstrokes, where the Canadian hit almost twice as many winners as unforced errors, 27 to 14.

Up against a serve-and-volleyer in Vavassori, Shapovalov crucially won the net battle, winning 71 percent of points when he attacked the net and 62 percent when the Italian came in.

The defending champion picked up where he left off two years ago immediately, breaking serve with a clean return winner in the opening game and consolidating with a hold to love.

He had a chance for a double break in the following game but could not convert. Shapovalov looked well on his way to taking the opening set, cruising on serve until he had to serve for the set where he played his first poor game of the match, double faulting on break point to allow Vavassori back to 5-all.

In the tiebreak, Shapovalov once again raced out to an early lead but this time did not look back, overpowering his opponent as he won six of the first seven points before the Italian returned the favour from the tenth game, double-faulting to give away the set.

Just like the opening set and the tiebreak, Shapovalov raced out to an early lead, winning 12 of the first 14 points, including a break to love, to take a 3-0 lead.

When given a chance at a double break, the Canadian did not let it slip away this time, breaking for a 5-1 lead. He was also not about to blink again when serve to close out the set, hitting three straight unreturned serves before clinching the victory with backhand winner.

Next up for the defending champion will be Arthur Rinderknech.

Auger-Aliassime soars past Krajinovic in second round

While Shapovalov hopes to defend his 2019 title, Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime looks to finish off his season on the right foot at the Stockholm Open. The World No. 11 is playing at the ATP 250 event in Stockholm for the first time in his career and got to benefit from a first-round bye as the tournament’s second seed. In the second round on Wednesday, he faced World No. 42 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

It was the fourth meeting between Auger-Aliassime and the No. 3-ranked Serb. Their most recent encounter happened at the Italian Open, where the Canadian edged Krajinovic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4. Today’s match was a little more one sided, as Auger-Aliassime cruised his way to a 6-3, 6-4 victory to level their head-to-head at two wins apiece.  

In the first set, Auger-Aliassime dropped his opening service game but managed to bounce back immediately and broke Krajinovic’s next two serves. Auger-Aliassime served superbly for the remainder of the set and didn’t give the Serb a chance to strike back. The powerful Canadian kept 79 per cent of first serves in play and won 74 per cent of those points, including three aces.

Auger-Aliassime’s first serve percentage dipped to 54 per cent in the second set which gave Krajinovic some chances to get back in the match. However, Auger-Aliassime was clutch on the points that mattered most, breaking the Serb on his second opportunity and fending off all four break points he faced.

At 5-4 in the second set, Auger-Aliassime had the chance to serve for the match. He came out looking as confident as ever and held to love to punch his ticket to the Stockholm quarter-finals.

Auger-Aliassime will face Holland’s Botic van de Zandschulp tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. EST. A win could set up an all-Canadian semi-final with Shapovalov who plays his quarter-final match later on Thursday.