Photo : Martin Sidorjak/Tennis Canada
There’s nothing like returning to the site of prior success to re-find your confidence.
Entering Wimbledon on a six-match losing streak, Denis Shapovalov was able to get back in the win column on Tuesday with a five-set comeback victory over Arthur Rinderknech.
The 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist had not won a match since beating Rafael Nadal on clay in Rome back in May and looked to be on his way to a seventh straight loss when he trailed by two sets to one and a break in the fourth, but he was able to fight back to snap the skid with a 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1 victory.
It was a serving clinic from the Canadian, who won 85 percent of his first serve points and hit 20 aces, while saving five of six break points. His rally game was strong too, hitting 58 winners and committed 40 unforced errors, five fewer than his French opponent.
If the six consecutive losses were weighing on Shapovalov’s mind when he arrived on Court 16, he did not show it. The Canadian exploded out of the gate, breaking serve twice on his way to a 4-0 lead. He added a third break to wrap up the opening set in just under half an hour.
Rinderknech re-established the status quo to start the second set, forcing Shapovalov to save three break points in the opening game. The Canadian escaped the first threat against his serve of the day and the pair quickly fell into a serving rhythm, with neither man getting another chance to grab the initiative.
Self-inflicted wounds ended up costing Shapovalov the set, as he gave away a pair of minibreaks with double-faults in the second set tiebreak, the second of which gave Rinderknech a set point, where the Canadian missed a forehand to level at a set-all.
The match opened up a little bit in the third set, with both men having chances to break, including Shapovalov saving set points on his own serve at 4-5 and 5-6, but still neither broke through and another tiebreak was needed.
Once again, double-faults proved to be the Canadian’s undoing. He committed another on his first service point of the tiebreak and that was enough for Rinderknech, who hung on to that lead before Shapovalov dumped a forehand into the net on set point.
It looked like the Frenchman was going to run away with it when he broke Shapovalov for the first time in the match for a 2-1 lead in the fourth set, but the Canadian hit back-to-back stunning forehand winners in the next game to immediately get back on serve.
In the fourth set, Shapovalov was finally able to play clutch tennis in a key moment, breaking his opponent as he served to stay in the set at 4-5 to force a fifth set.
From 1-all in the fifth, the Canadian seized control. A clean forehand return winner gave Shapovalov the early break as he raised his game.
Seemingly unable to miss, the 2021 semi-finalist showed why he reached the final four a year ago, winning the last five games in a row and 20 of the last 25 points to pick up his first victory since May.
In the second round, Shapovalov will meet American Brandon Nakashima.