It was a battle of the one-handed backhands as the Next Gen clashed at the Australian Open. World no. 50 Denis Shapovalov met a familiar foe from his junior years in Stefanos Tsitsipas, current world no. 82. Both teenagers – 18 and 19, respectively – were playing their Australian Open debut.
It was the Canadian who had the successful debut, taking out his Greek opponent 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(5) in one hour, 56 minutes.
Shapovalov earned the first break of the match when he forced a volley error from his opponent to go up 2-0. He quickly jumped ahead a double break at 4-0 and would take the set 6-1 after 25 minutes of play.
The Canadian hit nine winners to his opponent’s two in the set.
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It was more of the same for Shapovalov in the second set as he jumped ahead an early break to go up 2-1 on Tsitsipas.
It was a tightly contested set but it was the Canadian that maintained his momentum and took the set 6-3 to go up two sets to love. Shapovalov hit seven winners to Tsitsipas’ three and saved the lone break point faced on his serve with an ace.
Shapovalov (🎥Eurosport) pic.twitter.com/CY3Zsr0v2g
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The 18-year-old looked to keep cruising as he broke Tsitsipas in the second game of the third set and held for a 3-0 lead, but soon after found himself even at 3-3.
A tiebreak would decide the third set. Both men were battling hard to hold their service points. Even at 5-5, Tsitsipas serving, Shapovalov earned the one and only mini break to move up 6-5 and, on an overhead smash, take the set 7-6(5).
Shapovalov ended the match with nine aces and 33 winners. He won an impressive 82% of his first service points and 68% behind his second serve. Tsitsipas was limited to 11 winners for the match.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) January 15, 2018
Shapovalov will play the winner between no. 10 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or qualifier Kevin King in the second round.
Also in action on Day 1 was Vasek Pospisil. The world no. 103 qualified for the Open and drew world no. 6 Marin Cilic. Pospisil would drop a tight and entertaining battle 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(5) in three hours, 17 minutes.