Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Canadian tennis fans needed at least three screens on Tuesday to follow all the action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
At 11 a.m. ET, Bianca Andreescu was the first Canadian on court to play in her opening-round match against fellow US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Not long after that, Denis Shapovalov made his way to Court 1 as he faced world No. 25 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in the second round. Meanwhile, Félix Auger-Aliassime was gearing up to play clay-court specialist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain on Pietrangeli Court.
On the men’s side, Shapovalov’s match was the first to wrap up. The Richmond Hill native was down 2-0 in his head-to-head with the Georgian player but finally got in the win column today, defeating Basilashvili 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach the round of 16 in Rome.
After struggling in the service department in his first-round battle with Lorenzo Sonego, Shapovalov stepped it up a notch against Basilashvili, keeping 70 per cent of first serves in play and winning 85 per cent of those points.
The opening set didn’t have many long rallies and was a fairly even contest. The difference-maker was Shapovalov’s ability to come up clutch in the key moments, saving a break point in the second game and converting on his own opportunity in the ninth game.
Similar to the first set, both players weren’t having much trouble getting through their service games in the second. The only opportunity to break serve in the second set came in the 11th game, however, the Georgian stood tall and turned both chances aside, and the set eventually needed a tiebreak.
Despite hitting two untimely double faults in the tiebreak, Shapovalov managed to take it 7-5. With the win, the Canadian improves his 2022 tiebreak record to 12-4.
Next up for Shapovalov is the winner of the match between Rafael Nadal and John Isner. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion defeats the 6-foot-11 American, Shapovalov will have a chance to avenge last year’s result in Rome, where he lost to Nadal 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(3).
Auger-Aliassime overcomes Davidovich Fokina in tHree-set thriller
By the time Shapovalov’s match concluded, his compatriot and good buddy Auger-Aliassime was already down a set to world No. 29 Davidovich Fokina.
Auger-Aliassime and the Spaniard had only met once on the professional circuit prior to today’s contest – the Canadian winning it in Australia in four sets 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 7-6(4).
After just over three hours on Pietrangeli Court, Auger-Aliassime added another win to his head-to-head with Davidovich Fokina, as he ousted the Spaniard in three sets by a score of 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2.
Despite Davidovich Fokina’s outstanding defensive skills, Auger-Aliassime managed to turn aside nine of 11 break points faced. Auger-Aliassime’s record on clay this season improves to 7-5.
In the ninth game of the first set, Davidovich Fokina hit a gorgeous forehand that painted the baseline on break point to give him the first break advantage of the match. He would hold to love in the 10th game to claim the opening set 6-4.
Avoiding going down a set and a break, Auger-Aliassime came up big and turned aside three Davidovich Fokina break points in the second frame. Auger-Aliassime eventually claimed the second set in a tiebreak, winning it convincingly 7-2.
The Canadian finally had some momentum and carried it into the third set, breaking the Spaniard’s opening service game. However, Davidovich Fokina, who has had exactly half of his matches this year go to a deciding set, kept his foot on the gas and broke right back.
In the fifth game, Auger-Aliassime hit a superb return up to the line to regain his break advantage. He would win the next three games to seal the match in just over three hours. Auger-Aliassime will face either Diego Schwartzman or Marcos Giron in the round of 16.