Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada
By Max Gao
Frances Tiafoe snapped a four-match losing streak against Denis Shapovalov on Wednesday evening, stunning the home favorite with a 6-1, 6-4 victory to move into the third round at the 2021 National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
On a windy evening at the Aviva Centre, Tiafoe, who already had three matches under his belt going into this highly-anticipated encounter, always seemed to have the upper hand in the early exchanges. In his first match of the week, Shapovalov struggled with his ball toss and couldn’t seem to find his rhythm with his groundstrokes, which allowed Tiafoe to reel off five games in a row from 1-all in the first set.
While the second set was a much tighter affair, Tiafoe was able to stay on serve with Shapovalov, who used the vocal support of the home crowd to raise his level and get out of trouble in his own service games. In the end, however, Tiafoe would come out on top in a mammoth ninth game, where he converted his seventh break point to earn a decisive final break. The American didn’t face a single break point in the entire match, subduing Shapovalov after an hour and 15 minutes and earning his second win in six meetings with the Canadian.
“It was very windy, especially early on, but I thought it was going to favor me,” Tiafoe said in his post-match press conference. “Denis likes to swing big and really go for his shots. With conditions like that, [it] makes it a little tough. He was definitely flustered with that … I definitely used it to my advantage. I was able to be solid, I was able to serve well, come to the net and kind of just make it super awkward for him.”
“This is the sixth time we have played. But I came with a much more relaxed approach the last couple times we played, joking with him before the match,” Tiafoe added. “[I] was much more serious today. I really wanted to win. I definitely approached it a different way. It was just my night tonight.”
For a spot in the quarter-finals, the American, who entered the draw as a lucky loser, will now face No. 11 seed Gael Monfils, who closed out the night session with a thrilling 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Australia’s John Millman.
After saving two break points on his own serve earlier in the match, Millman was able to draw first blood in the eighth game, earning a crucial break at love before serving out the set at ease. While both players would exchange breaks of serve in the early stages of the second set, it was Monfils who, after hitting one of the shots of the day to break for 3-1, was able to consolidate his advantage and restore parity at one-set-all.
In a titanic final set, Millman, who saved three break points on his own serve, took advantage of a short lapse in concentration from Monfils to break for 4-2. But the Frenchman, spurred on by the support of the Canadian crowd, responded in emphatic fashion, breaking straight back and claiming another break that would later prove decisive. Monfils, a two-time former semi-finalist at this event, gave the crowd plenty to cheer about in the one-hour, 53-minute battle — even busting a move after converting his first match point with an ace out wide.
Earlier in the evening, No. 4 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau edged out the all-Austrian team of Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald, 6-2, 1-6, 12-10, while No. 8 seeds Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig defeated Simone Bolelli and Maximo Gonzalez, 6-4, 6-3.