I’ll be one of the first to admit that I saw this as being a tough tournament for Denis Shapovalov. The young Canadian struggled to find any sort of form in the build up to the US Open, failing to secure a win since his heart-breaking semifinal loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon. This bad patch is clearly a distant memory however, as the world #10 has powered his way through his open rounds with ease. There’s no doubt that Denis Shapovalov is finding form at the right time.
Denis Shapovalov Is Back
A Disappointing Post-Wimbledon
Shapovalov’s post-Wimbledon form hasn’t been anything to boast about. At the Swiss Open, he went crashing out in the first round to Vit Kopriva, a player ranked over 200 places below him at the time. This was a shock result considering the level we’d just seen from him throughout the Wimbledon Championships.
Unfortunately, more disappointment was around the corner. In Toronto, Shapovalov was cleaned up by good friend Frances Tiafoe in straight sets in the first round. Though this was disappointing, it wasn’t as shambolic as his previous defeat, as we all know that Tiafoe can turn it on and beat any of the top players when he’s on form.
In Cincinnati the Canadian fought hard but was unable to dismiss Benoit Paire, who was having a resurgent week after a rather appalling year in terms of form and on-court behaviour. This made it three straight losses to players he should be beating. Things were not boding well for the final Grand Slam of the year.
Finding His Form Again
Despite the doubts raised over Shapovalov heading into this tournament, they have now been almost entirely cast aside. A potentially tricky first round encounter with big-serving Federico Delbonis was all too easy for Shapovalov, who put on an absolute masterclass of shotmaking in a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win. The exuberant youngster was in fine form off both wings, dominating from the baseline with his trademark aggressive tennis.
Next up was the tenacious Roberto Carballes Baena, who was victorious in their encounter at the French Open last year. Shapovalov had no trouble this time. Though the first set went to a tiebreak, he secured another clean victory full of breath-taking shots from all angles on the court. The Canadian triumphed 7-6(3) 6-3 6-0 in scintillating fashion.
The Canadian blasted 88 winners and 23 aces across his opening rounds.
A Stern Test Awaits
While things are looking good right now, a big challenge awaits him in the third round. Lloyd Harris has been in stunning form all year on hardcourts, and is even 5-2 against top 30 opposition on the surface. This will no doubt be Shapovalov’s biggest test so far. Harris plays a highly aggressive brand of tennis with a booming serve on top of it, which can be tough to handle.
To make things even more intimidating for the 7th seed, Harris won their first and only encounter earlier this year in a thrilling match in Dubai. It’s fair to say he’s got his work cut out for him here.
Despite the danger that the South African possesses, this is still a match Shapovalov should win. He may be hit or miss with his aggressive tennis, but it’s far more explosive than that of Harris. When he is redlining every forehand and backhand to perfection like we’ve seen so far, there aren’t many who can deal with it.
Errors are of course inevitable with his style of play, but his best tennis is so good that it essentially cancels them out when he’s on fire. There simply aren’t many better players to watch on tour when he plays like this.
If he comes through this encounter with Harris, he has a huge chance to go deep. The rest of the draw better watch out.