It wasn’t to be for Denis Shapovalov on Friday afternoon at the US Open, as he couldn’t get a second consecutive five-set thriller to fall his way despite a high quality of tennis. He fell to last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the third round.
Shapovalov got off to a blazing start against the No. 5 seed, securing an early break of his opponent’s typically lethal serve. He played controlled, efficient tennis to ride that single-break advantage all the way to a 6-4 first set, hitting a clean 11 winners to just 8 unforced errors.
A medical timeout after the first set appeared to rejuvenate Anderson, who earlier this week survived a dramatic five-set epic against Ryan Harrison in the first round. He would take advantage of some erratic play by the 19-year-old from Canada and serve lights out to claim the next two sets with a single break of serve in each.
The fourth set was played on even grounds until in the tenth game Shapovalov was able to conjure two distinct moments of magic. The first – on a stunning backhand volley after picking up an Anderson smash – earned him two set points. Although those set points would be erased, he earned a third and took it thanks to a miraculous return that drew an error from the South African.
Anderson, however, was able to pull ahead in the decisive set thanks to an early break of the Shapovalov serve. He was able to consolidate the break after saving break points in his following service game, and was able to hang on to that advantage courtesy of his world-class serve. Although the #NextGenATP Canadian was able to save four match points in the the ninth game, it would only take one in the tenth — on Anderson’s booming serve — to seal victory for the No. 5 seed in three hours, 42 minutes.
Although he was unable to defend his fourth round points from the previous year, Shapovalov remains in third place in the race to the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan at the end of the season. With very little to defend for the rest of the season, he has a strong shot at finishing the year at a career-best year-end ranking.
(Feature photo: Mauricio Paiz)