MONTREAL— Canadian Denis Shapovalov admits the epic tiebreak that propelled him into the second round of the Rogers Cup is still “a little bit of a blur.”
The 143rd-ranked Shapovalov survived four match points in a second-set tiebreak on his way to a 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 victory over the 64th-ranked Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil in the opening round on Tuesday.
“I don’t remember all of them, honestly,” said Shapovalov, who was granted a wild-card spot in the tournament. “I wasn’t holding back. I just told myself, ‘He’s got to win it from me. I’m not going to give it to him.’
“I think I did a good job to stay tough out there.”
After dropping the opening set, Shapovalov’s margin for error was slim.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native’s comeback looked unlikely when he quickly fell behind 3-0 in the second-set tiebreak. He fired back-to-back aces to give himself a fighting chance.
Down 6-4 — the first match point — Dutra Silva made an unforced error. Now 6-5, Shapovalov hit a clever drop shot just out of his opponent’s reach. On the third match point, Dutra Silva sent his backhand long. Down 8-7, Shapovalov hit his sixth ace of the set to fend off elimination for the fourth time.
With the Canadian now in front 9-8, Dutra Silva double faulted to give Shapovalov the second-set victory.
“I’m sure he felt the crowd getting on him,” said Shapovalov. “After every match point I saved, they went pretty crazy. It adds to the nerve for the other guy. They were so alive, so intense.”
In the third set, Shapovalov fired four aces. He broke Dutra Silva to take a 4-3 lead in the set and never looked back.
On triple match point, Shapovalov fired a serve that handcuffed Dutra Silva. The 18-year-old dropped his racket and threw his arms in the air as the centre court crowd at Uniprix Stadium erupted in cheers.
“Obviously after the breaker, I felt the momentum was shifting towards my way,” said Shapovalov. “I thought if I could get an early break, it would help me. I think I played really good tennis in the third set.”
It’s the second straight year that Shapovalov has advanced into the tournament’s second round after beating Nick Kyrgios during his opening match in 2016 in Toronto.
The win is Shapovalov’s first on hard court this year (1-3). It’s also just his second victory on the ATP world tour in 2017.
He’ll now face Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, ranked No. 31, in the second round.
“He’s one of my idols,” said Shapovalov of del Potro. “Growing up I saw him win the U.S. Open. So it’s going to be an extremely tough match. But I live for these moments. I live to be in these matches. I think it’s going to be a great battle.”
Shapovalov’s service game was his undoing in the first set. He was broken twice in the 41-minute set. Shapovalov’s first serve regularly clocked in at over 200 kilometres per hour, but it lacked the accuracy to be effective. The Canadian had an abysmal first-serve success rate of 40 per cent in the opening set.
But as the youngster’s serve improved, so did his confidence.
“I couldn’t really find my rhythm in the first set,” said Shapovalov. “I felt like in the tiebreaker I really loosened up and just started going for my serves. I hit a bunch of aces there. In the third set, that kind of continued.”
Earlier in the afternoon, South Korea’s Hyeon Chung upset Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(3).
Chung, ranked No. 56 in the world, took advantage of several mistakes made by the 28th-ranked Lopez, including eight double faults, to win the two hour 16 minute match.
The opening match on centre court at Uniprix Stadium was supposed to feature 10th-ranked Tomas Berdych but he pulled out with a rib injury. Berdych’s withdrawal ended a streak of 12 consecutive appearances in Canada for the Czech player.
“I am sorry I have to apologize (to) all my Montreal fans,” tweeted Berdych. “I couldn’t play, because of my rib disfunction I need to get well to go to office soon!!”
No. 85 Ernesto Escobedo took his spot and upset 63rd-ranked Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets 7-6(4), 6-4.
In the final match of the day, third-seeded Dominic Thiem was upset in the second round by Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman took it 6-4. 6-7, 7-5 in a match that needed two hours 55 minutes. Thiem is the highest-ranked player at the tournament to be eliminated so far.
Also, American Jack Sock downed Pierre-Hugues Herber 7-6(4), 6-3 in first-round play while fellow American Jared Donaldson beat Benoit Pare 6-2, 7-5 in the first second-round match of the tournament.
Borna Coric easily defeated Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Rafael Nadal in the second round.
Paolo Lorenzo downed American Frances Tiafoe 7-6(3), 0-6, 6-2. American Sam Querrey avoided an upset, rallying to beat qualifier Vincent Millot of France 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5.
In doubles, Canadians Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor lost 4-6, 6-4, 10-2 to Spaniards David Ferrer and Roberto Bautista Agut.
Milos Raonic from Thornhill, Ont., was initially scheduled to play his opening match on Tuesday but a minor injury forced him to postpone it to Wednesday. He faces France’s Adrian Mannarino.