Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime rallied to victory in the deciding doubles rubber against defending champions Russia to fire Canada into their first ATP Cup final on Saturday.
The Canadians beat the Russian pair of Daniil Medvedev and Roman Safiullin 4-6 7-5 10-7 in a final set super tiebreaker to seal the tie 2-1 and set up a Sunday final in the $10 million team event against Spain.
After Shapovalov and Medvedev won their respective singles matches, all four players were back at the Ken Rosewall Arena for the doubles.
The Russians appeared to have the upper hand before Canada levelled the match with a late break of serve in the second set and then carried the momentum in the super tiebreaker, which is played to 10 points instead of seven.
“Felix played unbelievable in the game to break and then in the tie-break as well, just making them play so much. It was awesome,” Shapovalov said. “We kept fighting. We have great team chemistry, team spirit, so it helped us a lot.”
Earlier, world number two Medvedev strolled past Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-0 to keep alive Russia’s hopes of defending their ATP Cup title, sending the semi-final tie into the deciding doubles.
Denis Shapovalov had put Canada within one win of reaching the final with a battling 6-4 5-7 6-4 victory over Roman Safiullin in the first singles, putting Medvedev in a must-win situation in the second rubber.
Medvedev delivered in style with a flawless performance against 11th-ranked Auger-Aliassime, making it one-way traffic in the match after grabbing the first break in the ninth game of the opening set.
Playing from well behind the baseline, the U.S. Open champion forced Auger-Aliassime to go for his shots, contributing to a spiral of unforced errors by the Canadian.
A depleted Russia, who beat Italy in last year’s final, came into the tournament without fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev and world number 18 Aslan Karatsev after both tested positive for COVID-19 in the lead-up to the team event.
In his first career meeting against the 167th-ranked Safiullin, the left-handed Shapovalov dominated proceedings to take the opening set, but the gritty Russian levelled things after his opponent hit an overhead smash into the net.
Safiullin looked set to forge ahead for an upset win against the 14th-ranked Shapovalov when he had six breakpoints at 2-1 in the deciding set. But the 22-year-old saved all of them to hold serve and then used the shift in momentum to break for 4-3.
Shapovalov, who had contracted COVID-19 in the lead-up to the ATP Cup, did not look back from there and completed the win in two hours and 39 minutes.
“Denis helped me and the team to push myself. We had a tough start in the doubles, so to be able to come back in this way, it’s really a team effort,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“That’s what the ATP Cup is about. You can still win after being one-all and losing a tough singles. It’s really about the team effort and we’re happy to be through. We’re really thrilled for the whole team.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry)
Canada's Denis Shapovalov is on to the fourth round of the Australian Open – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 21, 2022 7:28AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 21, 2022 6:40PM EST
MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov has a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
He beat Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to set up a showdown with third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
The Canadian has been pushed hard at Melbourne Park, averaging three hours 37 minutes of court time per win so far.
“I’ve gotten very familiar with the ice baths the last week,” Shapovalov said with a smile in an on-court interview. “We’ve become very good friends.”
At six foot 11 and 225 pounds, Opelka is an imposing force on the court. He had a 17-10 edge in aces on the 14th-seeded Shapovalov but made 46 unforced errors.
“Early on I actually found a rhythm on his serve,” Shapovalov said. “I was able to chip quite a lot back, so I was happy with that. I think I did a really good of just taking the chances today.
“Obviously it’s really tough to get the rhythm against a guy like that so I’m super happy.”
It was the first career meeting between Shapovalov and the 23rd-seeded American. Zverev, meanwhile, has a 4-2 edge in head-to-head matchups against the Canadian.
“Hopefully I can win,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a great match.”
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., previously reached the third round at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021. The 22-year-old’s best Grand Slam performance was a semifinal showing last year at Wimbledon.
Zverev defeated Maldova’s Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in third-round play.
“Radu is in great form right now … 1/8I’m 3/8 happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said.
Ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was scheduled to play Britain’s Daniel Evans in third-round play Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
Defense trade targets for the Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe's "soft" comment, and how many games should Petr Mrazek start the rest of the way? – MLHS Podcast Episode 38 – Maple Leafs Hot Stove
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Tennis-‘I’m not God! Can’t win every match’ – Osaka proud despite early exit
Naomi Osaka was at peace with herself after yet another failed attempt at defending a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and the former world number one was especially proud of the way she has managed to mould her mindset to deal with tough losses.
The former world number one crashed out from Melbourne Park after a third round loss in the deciding set tiebreaker to American Amanda Anisimova — the same stage the four-times major winner exited the U.S. Open four months back.
Following the Flushing Meadows defeat, a tearful Osaka told a news conference that she was taking a break from the sport, raising more concern about her mental health struggles that forced her to miss parts of the tennis season.
The soft spoken and self-confessed introvert declared at the start of the 2022 season that she was looking to have more fun on court and enjoy playing the sport.
“I would definitely say I’m proud of myself for this,” the Japanese player told reporters on Friday. “Though to me it didn’t feel like a short amount of time. It felt like ages ago.
“This for me is the biggest step. Even though I lost. I was really focused throughout the entire match, and I didn’t have a dip. So that’s really good. Hopefully as the season continues, I’ll be able to keep this up, and get even better at it.”
It was the fourth time that Osaka had failed to defend a Grand Slam title but on Friday she held two matchpoints against the American – something that also made her proud.
Osaka felt her defeat by 60th-ranked Anisimova showed the depth of women’s tennis.
“I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about that,” Osaka said, adding that she was yet to decide on her schedule before the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells in March.
“I’m not God! I can’t win every match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude.
“Of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went. I just want to go into this year knowing that I’ll play the whole year and I’ll just have the greatest attitude ever.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge)
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