Teen phenom Denis Shapovalov continues historic run at Rogers Cup
Becomes youngest semifinalist after defeating Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in another 3-set thriller
Teenage tennis sensation Denis Shapovalov has done it again.
The 18-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont. fought off more break points, came back from more deficits and found a way to beat 29-year-old Adrian Mannarino of France in the quarter-finals of the Rogers Cup on Friday night.
The win came less than 24 hours after a historic upset of first seeded tennis legend Rafael Nadal, which followed a second round win over 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro and a first-round victory over Rogerio Dutra Silva in which he needed to fight off four match points for the Brazilian.
"I've been against the wall a couple times this week and I'm very happy I've come out several times just playing really good tennis in those situations," said Shapovalov. "I think it really shows how I've improved mentally, along with just finding my game at the right moments."
After facing a run of veterans, he will be up against 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev, the fourth seed, in the semifinals on Saturday. Zverev defeated Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-5, 6-4.
The lanky left-hander with the shaggy blonde hair has emerged as Canada's newest tennis star with his play this week at a tournament some still call the Canadian Open.
Currently ranked 143rd in the world after a win in a lower-level Challenger event only three weeks ago in Gatineau, Que., Shapovalov will crack the top 70, possibly to 66th, for reaching the semifinals. There is already talk of giving him a wild card entry into the U.S. Open at the end of the month due to his new ranking instead of trying his luck in the qualifying tournament.
"It's a lot of changes happening within a couple days," said Shapovalov. "We'll plan after the event. Probably playing more ATP [tournaments], fewer Challengers."
He is the youngest player ever to reach the semifinals of a Masters Series tournament, one level below the Grand Slams. He is the lowest-ranked player to reach a Masters semifinal since Andrei Pavel (191st) in 2003 in Paris and the lowest to get to a Rogers Cup semifinal since Harel Levy (144th) in 2000.
Canadian <a href="https://twitter.com/denis_shapo">@Denis_Shapo</a>, 18, is youngest player in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ATPMasters1000?src=hash">#ATPMasters1000</a> SF ever and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CoupeRogers?src=hash">#CoupeRogers</a> SF in Open Era, beating <a href="https://twitter.com/AdrianMannarino">@AdrianMannarino</a> in 3 sets—@ATPMediaInfo
Shapovalov started out looking low on energy despite the encouragement of the packed centre court crowd.
He double-faulted on break point in the opening game en route to a quick first-set loss.
Shapovalov fights back
The two southpaws were on serve in the second when play halted 20 minutes for a light rain but, when it resumed, the crowd sprang to life, chanting 'let's go Denis' on the changeovers as he broke serve and then served out the set.
Shapovalov spent much of the match alternating between errors and impressive winners, consistently fighting off break points on his serve. He had nine aces and seven double faults.
He broke service for a 2-1 lead in the third only to hand it back in the next game, but a roar went up when Mannarino wasted a chance to put away a game point and Shapovalov jumped on the chance to break for a 5-4 lead. He leapt in the air as he closed out the match.
"Against Rafa, it was just a longer, more physical match," said Shapovalov. "I started off pretty slow, just drained from [Thursday].
"Rafa took a lot out of me. But Adrian did a good job of playing fast with me in the first set, really taking it to me. I felt a little bit rushed. I tried to slow things down in the second. Obviously the rain delay helped me. I kind of told myself 'you know, this could be a really good turning point.' "
Asked what he felt most proud of, he said "my fighting spirit.
"If I don't save those match points in the first match, there's no chance of being here. Just having to battle every day. I've had several tough matches. Just getting through it every day. It's really motivating."
Second-seeded Roger Federer continued his mastery over 12th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. The 36-year-old Swiss will next face unseeded Dutchman Robin Haase, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 winner over Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.
Federer has won all seven career matches and taken all 16 sets against the 29-year-old Bautista Agut.
He is 1-0 against Haase — a straight-sets win in Davis Cup play in 2012.
Federer said he knows Haase well from serving with him on the ATP player council and from practising together.
"I'm looking forward to a tough match because he can serve very well and he mixes up his tactics a lot," said Federer. "Sometimes he tends to just roll the ball in and use the big serve, or he uses a slice a lot and comes in.
"So I don't quite know with Robin what I'm going to get. But, as I have practised with him quite a bit, maybe I am better prepared than if I would have never hit with him before."
WOMEN: Wozniacki upsets Pliskova in rain-delayed quarter-final
Caroline Wozniacki made some changes this week to try to change her fortune in a city that has not been kind on the tennis front.
Personal driver? Not needed this time around. Same hotel as before? Switch that booking.
Wozniacki is not only winning in Toronto for the first time in her career, she's doing it against the world's best.
The 27-year-old from Denmark outlasted top-ranked Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in a rain-delayed marathon quarter-final on Friday at the Rogers Cup.
The match ended just over five hours after the players took to the court in the early afternoon for the pre-game warmup. The start was delayed for more than two hours and three more weather interruptions followed in the first set alone.
Actual on-court match time was two hours 56 minutes but it felt much longer.
"I just kept fighting and just kept doing my thing," Wozniacki said.
In the deciding set, Wozniacki broke at love to pull even at 4-4. She then held serve and followed with another break to lock up a spot in the final four.
Next up will be a Saturday showdown with American Sloane Stephens, who topped Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 before the rain returned in the evening.
Rain continued to impact the tournament, with the bottom half of the quarter-final draw being postponed to Saturday morning. Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine was scheduled to take on fourth-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. Defending champ and second seed Simona Halep of Romania was to play Caroline Garcia of France in the other quarter-final.
Pliskova, a towering six-foot-one 25-year-old from the Czech Republic, was playing her first tournament as world No. 1.
"She just put everything back," Pliskova said. "Even my serves, even some of the ground strokes. So it was tough for me to close it and I think it's tough to play someone like [that]."
After dropping the first three games of the opening set Friday, Wozniacki fought back by beating Pliskova at her own game.
She matched her powerful ground strokes and started going for more winners to take the momentum.
On her heels a bit more, Pliskova's unforced errors started to rise. She smashed her racket into the court when another miscue gave Wozniacki a 6-5 edge.
Wozniacki used an ace to win her sixth straight game and the first set.
"I just tried to stay steady," she said. "[I] tried to take the ball on the rise and try to stay aggressive when I could and keep my serves aggressive too."
Both players held serve through the second set with Pliskova pulling even in the match by taking the last four points of the tiebreaker.
Pliskova used a strong backhand cross-court to earn the first break of the third set. She pulled ahead 3-2 as Wozniacki was forced wide and netted her return.
However, Wozniacki refused to buckle and breaks in two of the last three games gave her a semifinal berth and a 5-2 career head-to-head mark against Pliskova.
"I think I was maybe a little bit less tired towards the end," Wozniacki said. "I just kept hanging in there and I thought we both played a really good match."
"I had some time to just be home and enjoy spending some time with friends and family and then came back and was recharged."